🌈 💼 vol. 34 / on the first day of work /

It’s my first day of work.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.” 

— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Hey Beautiful People — 

It’s my first day of work.

The first job after college seems like a big deal. My parents have been calling me for the past few days asking if I felt prepared. I'm sure they must be worried, excited, proud, and most importantly, they finally found a life event of mine that they could relate to and gave advice on.

Nothing else really made sense to them for the past four years.

The fact that I got to double major in two completely irrelevant subjects in college was a shock, that I could wear my sneakers to work and still get paid as an intern was a shock, that I got hired as a designer by strangers without studying design was a shock, that I could get my eggs frozen for free as part of my job offer was a shock, that I could love my work so much was a shock.

Maybe I didn't spend enough time to sit down with them and chat, maybe I was always busy chasing what's next, maybe I didn't really listen. The last time we talked, they still expect a timeline for kids and marriage, they still worry that my ambition will deprive my right to happiness as a woman, and they still believe I'm moving too fast without taking the time to learn the basics.

For the longest time, I had a chip on my shoulder to prove them wrong. It's only after years of doing the work I love and of being surrounded by all the incredible people that I was humbled. I learned to sit at peace with my ambitions, my desires, my irrationalities and madness, and sometimes even looked them into the eyes. They cripple as much as they enable. They mask as much as they clarify. They distract as much as they guide.

We are a generation that seems to lead completely different lives from our parents'. It's too easy to dismiss their advice as irrelevant no more. Have we gotten a second to dissect their intention, it's not hard to understand their fear for my loneliness, my lack of patience, and my unsatiated need to do more. Their advocacy for safety, complacency, and comfort are simply the fundamental needs of humans, and my stubborn denial of these needs reflect my own fear of not reaching self-actualization. There are days that I find that everything my parents have said is right, and it's exactly the safety, complacency, and comfort that really matter, but the next day my restlessness and curiosity get the better of me.

Every generation fights a different battle.

The information age has allowed our generations to play a new set of positive-sum games, and we are armed with a new set of superpowers. We can now carve our own paths because most roadblocks are being slowly taken down. We can now have fluid and multiple selves due to the evolving acceptance of identities. We can have a voice and make direct impact.

With power comes responsibility and woes. The rising high with unwavering self-belief and then falling hard with unrecognized hubris can happen overnight.

We excruciate over uncertainty and ambiguity, and we turn our faces away from serendipity in pursuit of our goals. We have a hard time muting the noises coming from every corner and every device. We have a hard time enduring silence and boredom. We can fall into an abyss when we don't get immediate gratification.

While I may no longer relate to the unglamorous obedience to order, the unreasonable dedication to one profession, and the pace at which things move along, I started to realize there's something to learn from my parents precisely because of our differences. I want to believe that my awareness of these differences will free me from the illusions of our generational myopia and dare to dream better.

Last night, before I went to bed, I once again read this excerpt from Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus":

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

….

You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero…. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth.

….

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.

There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night.

….

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

….

Wish me luck,

Tina


I’ve written a bit about careers. Here’s a compilation of some past writings here.

Why VC? A lot left to be done.

When it comes to making my career decision, I want to be at a place where changes are happening, but a lot is left to be done, and it can be done by me.

Finding love through work

When we’re disillusioned, we usually resort to cynicism, confusion, escape, or even anger: “If this is truly the happiness that everyone seeks after, why am I feeling this way?”

Some candid career advice (given by my boss)

“Most people in their early 20s prioritize process and productivity over thoughtfulness.”

Whistle as you go

Do something useful. Do something consistently. Do something fun.


What am I up to next?

I'm incredibly lucky to be joining the wonderful team at NEA in NYC. I will be thinking a lot about the following, and will digging deeper in each of the following since there’s so much nuance.

1/ Where Design provides strong strategic advantage

Capital "D" design here because it embodies a lot more than just how things look. The companies who are able to adopt the design process and system thinking is a lot more resilient to scale.

2/ Skin-in-the-game founders

I believe many businesses fail simply because they just don't fundamentally understand the pain point. The pain point is observed through an imperialist angle. I want to see the victim of a symptom steps up to become the creator of a solution.

3/ Under-served needs plus compelling narratives

This is self explanatory, and comes down to whether this idea have the potential to shape culture and tell stories that can inspire understandings across diverse communities.

The opinion of this newsletter will continue to be my own and will not represent NEA, but if you jam with what I’ll be sharing here, please reach out and chat.

This is what we need on our first day of work…although our generation don’t talk about work no mo, we are here to build our ~ career~

A community is being built to bring together impact-driven thinkers and builders.

Thank you to those who have reached out wanting to chat. I’m taking the time to get to know each person better, and I believe in quality of relationship over quantity.

Meanwhile…

Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.

That’s it. 💙✌🏻

Share with the world if you enjoyed this. 🌍

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🌈 🌹 vol. 33 / emotional capitalism and its discontents / future peeking thru a bot / 1k pushups a day / happiest job / ++

Just like the re-emergence of “renaissance man,” there’s more “renaissance companies” that transcend the value they initially offer and attend to the emotional needs of their customers.

Human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else.

— Emmanuel Kant


“Buddhism believes…”

The man wiggled peace signs into air quotes. The man who sat across from him nervously scribed everything he heard on the Notes App on his iPhone.

“Buddhism believes that the suffering, YOUR suffering, is the difference between your expectations and reality. Let me repeat that.”

He repeated, enunciating each syllable. Everyone sitting in three feet radius became the beneficiaries of his blessing. We were all silent and listening and eating our lunch, and we all shared the moment. We will then go on with our days to find more blessings in the dimly lit spinning room, in the inspirational quote filled co-working space, and in the salad bowl infused with antioxidants and purpose.

What was the man going through? We will never know, but it doesn’t matter, because for a moment we all empathized with him. We are all aching. The next corner we turn, we will discover something new to make us feel good. Just like how I chose to dine at this Paleo-only cruelty-free gluten-free cafe, I may have expected this kind of ceremonial experience.

We often hear that a business idea is at heart an as-yet-explored need. It’s to provide people what they want but don’t know they want yet. Yet as the commercial narratives become ever more powerful and pervasive, it starts to define our wants for us, and our neglected real needs that are not represented in the ads feel illegitimate. Among them are our obligations to feel loved, to feel valuable, to feel safe, to care for and be cared for by our friends, to grow, to learn, to be a part of a community. Yet recently, we start to find bits of spirituality scattered everywhere we go. It’s a collective outcry that seeks for a coherent expression to address these long-neglected needs.

One of the reasons why I’m feeling optimistic about the world of new ventures is that we might have arrived at a point where Emotional Capitalism is becoming a reality. I’m inspired every day looking at companies started by community leaders from all corners. These companies, are now armed with better infrastructure— data analytics tools, market and user research tools, niche use of AI — to understand the needs of the people they serve.

I first came across the term “Emotional Capitalism” reading social scientist Eva Illouz’s “Cold Intimacies.” She claims that “the making of capitalism went hand in hand with the making of an intensely specialized emotional culture.” Emotional Capitalism is believed to be an ideal state of an economic system that serves to empower individuals to fulfill needs higher up in Marlow’s pyramid.

For the past decades, Capitalism has been portrayed as constructing an a-emotional world dominated by ruthless rationality that conflicts with intimate, authentic relationships. Illouz rejects these conventional ideas and argues that “never has the private self been so publicly performed and harnessed to the discourses and values of the economic and political spheres.”

Illouz arguments resonate strongly with the recent wave of wellness products as well as Jerry Colonna’s book “Reboot” that I’ve been raving about to all my friends. In one of the interviews, he shared that a shift of perspective can make us all more compassionate at work. To understand humans is to know that we are all driven by our shared needs to feel loved, safe, and a sense of belonging.

If someone is kind of an a**hole, instead of instantly prescribe some character flaws, we can instead ask ourselves: “is this person lacking love, safety, and a sense of belonging? Is there anything I can do to provide that?”

Although Colonna introduced this framework in the context of leadership and building company culture, I found it extremely applicable in crafting products as well. I’m such a fan of this framework that I made a graph mapping some of the most successful breakouts recently and how they provide these feelings at scale.

What’s encouraging to see is that high-quality content, seamless UX design, and an actively engaged community are becoming the strategic prerequisite for companies to ensure differentiation, lower cost, and define segmentation. What would be perceived as companies in extremely different sectors are adopting similar product design and development processes. Just like the re-emergence of “renaissance man,” there’s more “renaissance companies” that transcend the value they initially offer and attend to the emotional needs of their customers.

I finished my last bite of Buddha bowl as the guy finished his preaching. In a sense, we are all becoming priests of our own secular faith, and brands are arming us with the diction for our own beliefs. What we demand will become what we buy and what we preach.

I read somewhere that humanity is not evil because the economic system is; the economic system is evil because humanity is. We sometimes forget that we are the atoms of economics, and it’s through our own creation can only mediate the agony of reality.

Of course, this is not to dismiss the fact that this path evokes just as much discontent. For instance, if I cannot afford the experience, do I deserve less to feel love, safety, belong? How do we ensure that the humanist approach to company building is not made at the expense of our environment? These are the questions that still await better answers. But that’s the topic of another time.

Stay real & eat well,

Tina


Another interesting challenge of a humanist approach is that some of us don’t really want to become human no more. Some of us wanna become superhuman, and some might wanna become AI.

Here’s another fitness startup PIVOT. The business model is one that’s similar to its peers like Peloton and MIRROR, but what’s interesting to me is that it has a strong emphasis on AI.

The startup taps a combination of sensors and machine learning to count reps and track form in real time.

I wonder what kind of data that these at home fitness equipment collect can actually generate insights into creating a better workout routine. One of the investors made the claim that propriety data can actually provide an edge for the product.

DCM partner Kyle Lui assert that Pivot’s proprietary software and machine learning technology will give it a leg up on the competition. To this end, the aforementioned B2B system — SmartSpot — leverages a depth-sensing camera that records workouts and points out when users’ angles are off or their postures are misaligned. It’s able to recognize bicep curls, seated shoulder presses, lunges, front squats, bent over rows, hammer curls, and other exercises, and it collates data to show users how recent performances compared with past performances (!!!) .

The problem is, is having propriety data in this space really an edge? (Let me know your thoughts!) In my opinion, there won’t be a clear winner in the space just because the preference for workout style varies. Not everyone is so outcome driven, and there’s still opportunities for fitness companies that focus on delivering an empowering experience. One of my favorite sites Active Spaces is a curation site for people who want to work out without feeling like they are working out. I thought it’s brilliant.


Tarotobot: predict the future for me!

I got kind of lazy, so I hired something to predict the future for me. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Found this super fun toy on the web that shuffles Tarot card to look into random future. They are great for writing prompts, a spicy debate with friends, or a weekend Hackathon project.

Most of the “future” generated are design oriented. I wish there’s a version that’s more comprehensive.

Here are a few for your amusement — 


1000 Pushups a Day

Whenever I need some motivation for my workout routine, I go back to this article that I discovered earlier this year.

This incredible woman applies neuropsychology and positive psychology to design a system that works. My favorite part is when she used the “if/then” method:

I worked through a series of “if/then” scenarios to handle situations that I knew would threaten my sense of competence in order to make sure I would achieve something.

  1. What if I’m feeling a little sick, but not “down for the count”? I could set a minimum to do that day. In my case, it was 25 push-ups. “If I’m feeling a little sick, then I’ll just do my minimum of 25 for that day.”

  2. What if I’m feeling really sick, perhaps with a stomach bug? On that day, I resolved to do my absolute minimum of one push-up. “If I’m feeling really sick, then I’ll just do one push-up.”

  3. What if the only time I can do push-ups is at work? I had breaks, so if I could find a discreet spot—the bathroom floor, the hallway, a classroom—I could get it done. Doing a set of 25 doesn’t take longer than about 30 seconds once you develop the strength for it. “If I don’t get my push-ups in at home in the morning, then I’ll do them at work during my break.”

  4. What if I just can’t seem to squeeze in my minimum? I resolved to always do at least one. One push-up takes mere seconds to complete, and I might discover that I could do a few more. “If I can’t do my minimum, then I’ll do at least one push-up.”

[…]

And I told myself, “Remember: You get a check mark every time you complete your minimum, even if it’s just one!”

For some reason, every time I finish this piece, I just cannot find excuse anymore not to workout.

Bloomberg put out some interesting job satisfaction data, claiming that Firefighters Are the Happiest Workers in America.

A community is being built to bring together impact-driven thinkers and makers.

Thank you to those who have reached out wanting to chat. I’m taking the time to get to know each person better, and I believe in quality of relationship over quantity.

Meanwhile…

Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.

That’s it. I love you. 💙✌🏻

Share with the world if you enjoyed this. 🌍

Twitter / Website / Medium / Instagram

🌈 🖼 vol. 32 / transformation and destruction / founders as artists/ atrium for marketing / ++

The profile of a self-transforming mind resonates with the profile of an artist.

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

— Albert Camus


A close friend shared some diagrams of mental development across our adulthood from Robert Keegan’s 2009 book “Immunity to Change.” The diagrams stuck with me, as they provided the theoretical frameworks to locate my scattered observations.

In the book, the authors describe three plateaus in adult mental development: the development of the socialized mind, the self-authoring mind, and the self-transforming mind. The line gets thinner on the top as fewer people can overcome the last plateau to reach the next one.

The socialized mind is developed through the education system and for many the early years of one’s career. We are told that getting into an Ivy, playing varsity sports, and scoring a high-paying job are considered success, so we’ve strived towards that.

We plateau as socialized mind until we recognized the answers to questions like what matters to me? What keeps me up at night? What feels like play to me but work for others? What is my bottom line? This is the point where a lot of us become known for being “really good at what you do.” We know how to double down on our strengths and optimize productivity. We are high-performing but have also become more attached to this developed identity (or ego), as we start to derive a sense of self-worth from our expertise. Most people recognize they’ve plateaued when they get promoted because they are good at X to a role that requires knowing Y. In tech, it’s common that a killer designer or engineer becomes the design/engineer manager and all the sudden they no longer are great at what they do.

One finally develop the self-transforming mind when we can swiftly switch context and can access oneself or others in relations to different settings. By doing so regularly, we train their minds to look at ourselves and others as objectively as we can without sacrificing their aspiration to make a positive change. The concrete manifestation of the change they want to make is subject to change. The profile of a self-transforming mind resonates with the profile of an artist.

Here’s my favorite quote of all time from one of my favorite writer Albert Camus:

Art is neither complete rejection nor complete acceptance of what is. It is simultaneously rejection and acceptance, and this is why it must be a perpetually renewed wrenching apart. The artist constantly lives in such a state of ambiguity, incapable of negating the real and yet eternally bound to question it in its eternally unfinished aspects.

[…]

The loftiest work will always be… the work that maintains an equilibrium between reality and man’s rejection of that reality, each forcing the other upward in a ceaseless overflowing, characteristic of life itself at its most joyous and heart-rending extremes.

Then, every once in a while, a new world appears, different from the everyday world and yet the same, particular but universal, full of innocent insecurity — called forth for a few hours by the power and longing of genius.

The self-creation requires self-destruction. The world creation requires world destruction. When someone approaches mastery and can no longer prescribe the secret to their successes, it’s because they’ve constructed the world themselves through the diligence of both the conscious and the unconscious, the real and the unreal. The best founders, investors, writers, scientists have all reached this state of consilience.

Below is the estimated distribution of the population that can reach each stage of mental development in 1987 and 1994.

Shockingly, from this chart, it seems like people have become less developed over time.

Fast forward ten years, how is the distribution looking like now? Do we now see more leaders in the self-transforming stage? Or is it becoming ever more comfortable to stay in the stage socialized mind and be blissfully ignorant and unaware as there are more and more realities being prescribed?

I don’t have the data, but I’m guessing the distribution is more polarizing (just like many other things). It’s both easier and harder to identify bias. It’s both easier and harder to be original. It’s both easier and harder to “be oneself.” It’s both easier and harder to be happy at a big corporation.

So now we, feel like we are missing something again, get anxious and ask “how do I get to the stage of self-transforming”? The answer may be as simple as embracing and paying attention to the whole spectrum of being a human and all the possibilities that it evokes — be it envy, sadness, anger, disbelief, anxiety, greed, ambition, hope, love, or despair. We need to confront the truths that lie not in the 1000th book on business strategy, but instead in the changing of seasons, in the confessions of a lost friend, in the smile a mother gives to her child, in the soliloquy of Macbeth.

This may take a while. Start looking now and be patient with what you see.

Stay real,

Tina


SelfMade: Atrium but for Marketing

SelfMade caught my attention, as I spent some time in high school and early college taking pictures and writing copy as a side hustle. One of the problems I had was the volatility of demand, as all my clients came from word of mouth.

Platforms like UpWork have abundant supply, yet the quality is quite low (according to what I’ve heard from past users). Creating a brand and telling a coherent story is higher-leveled skillset that people can easily dismiss. Soon, it will becoming more important as the startup ecosystem is advocating voices of “human” and “authenticity”.

I’m a fan can see more specialized, high quality solutions created as lego-units that make up a business, and it will become increasingly seamless when there are more digitally native brands.

On another note, it’s becoming easier and easier to outsource one part of the business and hand it to someone else. Lambda School just launched its new feature where a company can now pay a Lambda School student to build its product.

Founders or business owners now need to be even more self-aware of their X factor, something that only they can do well, before they outsource the rest. Although I don’t know how a product that’s been outsourced will scale successfully without a bunch of headache afterwards, but we can also argue that it does provide opportunities for outlier talent at Lambda school to shine and can test a product with a much lower cost.


I’ve been raving about VC turned executive coach Jerry Colonna’s book Reboot and have been recommending this to a lot of my type-A high-performing friends.

For those don’t have the time to read, his interview with Tim Ferris was really good".

“Somewhere around 35 to 50 years old, the systems start to break down. The systems that got you out of childhood, that got you into adulthood, that got you established, that got you to the point where you think you got it all figured out. And then all of a sudden, holy shit, the whole thing starts to collapse. Now what do I do? And when I see someone who’s busy, who’s in the early 20s, I see a striver trying to establish themselves. But when I see somebody who’s busy who actually doesn’t need to be that way, I get really, really curious. What internal need is trying to be met by all that busyness? And that’s the place to inquire.”

[…]

“Not only do we put the parts of ourselves that society may say are obviously not good, let’s say a rage-like anger, but also the parts of ourselves that are actually quite powerful, quite positive, and quite lovely. But because they threaten, say, our belonging, they have to actually be put in the shadow as well. Well they too get really pissed off, right? And they too cause trouble. So you might put into the shadow your intellect, or your capabilities, or your ability to write a book, and you might sit for two or three decades, knowing that you want to write a book and not doing it because it might threaten you in some way or another.”

Listening to his words as someone who’s young, restless, doing too much, and very easily get lost in my own head, it’s easily a reminder that THIS will hit me at some point. When we look back on our lives, we realize almost all the clichés that we are told is almost always true, but we won’t really understand til we go through it. This makes me just appreciate the present a bit more. The fact that I still haven’t made it, the fact that my dream is still a bit impalpable so that I can still dream, the fact that I have nothing to lose, can be liberating.


A ‘millennial therapist’ for more than 5 years shared that the # 1 complaint from his clients: “I have too many choices and I can’t decide what to do. What if I make the wrong choice?”

In modern “emerging adulthood” — a term that psychology professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett defines as “the period between the ages of 18 and 25 when many directions remain possible and very little about the future has been decided” — delayed choices ultimately leads to confusion about one’s identity and purpose in life.

I wrote about how “you can do anything” can be a very scary thing.

A slow community that brings together impact-driven thinkers and makers.

Thank you to those who have reached out wanting to chat. I’m taking the time to get to know each person better, and I believe in quality of relationship over quantity. Meanwhile…

Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.

That’s it. I love you. 💙

Share with the world if you enjoyed this. 🌍

Twitter / Website / Medium / Instagram

🌈 ✨ vol. 31 / interim /

The heat of July gives me the perfect excuse to swim, to sweat, to cry, to realize how fast the world is changing and how stagnant it’s been.

The waking have one world 

In common. Sleepers

Meanwhile, turn aside, each

Into a darkness of his own. 

— Heraclitus

Hello beautiful people —

The heat of July gives me the perfect excuse to swim, to sweat, to cry, to realize how fast the world is changing and how stagnant it’s been.

For the past week, I met with a few people who had ideas for startups. The general theme is that they all want to disrupt an industry and build the next billion dollar company. The drive genuinely inspires me, but when I’ve asked about their progress and what they have been doing, none of them told me they’ve been building the actual solution. They did, however, conducted market research, networked with some prominent people in the industry, and set up the social media account.

The pursuit of faux progress and vanity metric is what we’re accustomed to as products of our education. The intrinsic need for external validation, recognition, and brand signals has been the most effective motivator for many bright minds, yet they also become a primary source of distraction when they want to make meaningful progress. It’s a lot easier to pitch as “Uber for X”, and easier to follow whatever the winners are already doing. When getting into a specific accelerator becomes an effort for the signal’s sake, the likelihood of the ideas to succeed lowers.

When we all start to compete on the same metrics, it’s a lot easier to hack the way to earn more status. The paradox is that the more obvious the parameter, the less likely the effort is useful. We still latch onto them, as they are just that much more tangible.

I battle every day with the fear of not making an impact but also the fear of doing “nothing”. It’s just so easy to feel left behind by the rapid changes in our immediate environment, yet is change really happening that fast?

Our idea of exponential change is much-driven by the media narrative. Yes, we now have new ways to connect with others, to consume and create content, to exchanging good and services through shared economy and blockchain technologies. But the important and much harder problems like cancer, climate change, education, how big things move around, and effective governance remain unsolved.

I went to the exhibition on the last industrial revolution driven by factories and machines at the de Young Museum last summer, and it’s uncanny the media rhetorics surrounding technology in the past century has remained almost identical. I joked that if we replaced “machines” with “AI” in these headlines, no one would’ve noticed.

Charles Sheeler, "Church Street El", 1920
Charles Sheeler, Church Street El, 1920. Oil on canvas

In reality, change is not exponential but a series of S-curves. There are periods of frenzy, and there are quiet periods. There are books like “the Hard Things about Hard Things,” and a few other honest inquiries into the hardship of building meaningful ventures. Not enough attention is given to portray the realistic pace of innovation. To pursue big ideas and significant breakthroughs means to abstain from vanity metric (claps for posts, # of fans, # of dollars raised etc.) and immediate recognition (landing a cool gig at x firm, connects with someone famous etc.). But those metrics are what the current media applauds and amplifies. Maybe the kind of stories I want to put forward as a storyteller in venture is the opposite. It's the brokenness, temperaments, biases, and flaws of the building process that I want to capture.

Image result for s curve innovation

The restless minds fresh out of a college are filled with impatient ideas, myself included, and in the midst of the heat I’ve found my restlessness parasitizing my mental clarity.

Plato articulated the limits of intellectuals in The Republic by describing that the world can only be put into order if “philosophers becomes kings or kings philosophers.” He implied that thinkers should stop imagining that ideas alone can ever change reality. “Kingship” is required to hold the world together by laws, practices, institutions, financial structures, businesses, and government. Improvements won’t be made until all legions align on the mission and tread through the unglamorous paths together — the ultimate vision of what this tiny newsletter could lead to.

I’ve been indulging in daydreaming, but I know it's time for me to go back in the field do some real work.

Happy summer,

Tina


My keyboard broke and probably need to get it fixed. Maybe it's a sign for me to keep this one shorter as an interim issue.

I want to take the time to personally say thank you to those who reached out and express interest in becoming part of this community, and those who told me my writing has uplifted or informed them in some way. I will not stop writing, and I've been chatting with a group of friends to make good stuff happen as a collective.

This newsletter has led to some of the life-changing relationships with people who are determined to make the world better. For that, I will eternally be grateful.

A community that brings together impact-driven thinkers and makers.

Reply if you want to contribute or just want to be friends. I’m looking for:

  • Community oriented people who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.

  • Wizards who see something in the future that most people don’t.

  • Creators who are in the process of building something magical.

  • Leaders who are eager to lead the discussions on the impact of technologies on our society.

That’s it. I love you. 💙

Share with the world if you enjoyed this. 🌍

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🌈 💌 vol. 30 / to hustle or not to hustle / where vices go / workout musings / ++

One of the biggest challenges of our generation is not the lack of advice, but the overabundance of advice that sometimes point us to entirely different directions.

“The creation of something complete and whole, be it good or bad – and if it’s never entirely good, it’s very often not all bad – yes, the creation of something complete seems to stir in me above all a feeling of envy. A completed thing is like a child; although imperfect like everything human, it belongs to us like our own children.” 

― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I shared this quote with some of my closest friends. What connected us in the first place is our eagerness to create. Like how mothers can empathize with each others, creators all go through similar labor. It’s the antidote to envy, and my first lesson for empathy.


New York is a city of actions.

I've been to a few events where the founders of some hip brands shared their success stories. They boasted having said yes to every opportunity that came in their way and taking every meeting to optimize for their chance for success.

"Never be afraid to ask and reach out!"

The eyes of the young crowd lit up as if there was something spiritual about what the panelists just preached. Maybe they came to this event hoping to have their life changed, or perhaps they just want to gather enough motivation to send out another email.

When I meet someone whose schedule is jam-packed with coffee chats and events one after the other, I hear the soundtrack "Someone in the Crowd" from La La Land playing in the back of my mind.

Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know

The one to finally lift you off the ground

Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go

If you're the someone ready to be found

The tech community has explicitly expressed strong opposition to this approach of career development. They advocate, instead, for deep, high-quality, uninterrupted work. They specifically call networking and conferences useless, without recollecting that it's probably through stumbling upon someone either physically or virtually that their minds have been shaped and changed.

Many people talk about body inclusivity and the definition of beauty. We once glorified the Victoria Secret angels, and now it's the six-packed, glowing skin, and a big butt that's en vogue. I think more people should also be talking about success inclusivity. Right now it's the self-made, creative, and rule-defying entrepreneur that is successful, but not long ago it's an organizational man that's able to crack the code of the corporate ladder and grinds day and night. Soon it may be the stay-at-home dad who is a freelancer but also a part-time fitness instructor and a Vlogger. Just like we can never catch up with the idea of beauty, so we have to accept our own body, we have to be at ease with our own definition of success.

One of the biggest challenges of our generation is not the lack of advice, but the overabundance of advice that sometimes point us to entirely different directions. Titles, accomplishments, and recognitions daze our own aspirations. When Forbes 30 under 30 lists was released last year, I was at the PUBLIC hotel lounge that's turned into a co-working space with cocktails. Just at a glance, three out of five people were sophisticatedly switching tabs between LinkedIn and the Forbes list, dissecting the profile of each of the nominees. I could hear my loud sigh. Truly a moment of our time.

The truth is that we may want what they look like now, but what how they work to get there. We may desire their impact but may not want to become them as individuals. A helpful way to check is to read their writings, if they share any. Why did they make a career change? Why did they start a company? What problem are they trying to solve in this world? Someone from a completely different field can turn out to be more inspiring by a leader in your own field.

Last summer, I confessed my struggle to my manager as I was struggling to find fulfillment working at Facebook. I felt like I wasn’t solving a real problem.

After a long pause, she said something very kind, but simultaneously very scary, and very real: "you can do anything."

The twitter that I saw this morning gave me the same feeling:

This is the outcome of a generation of being able to be anything. As the definition of success evolves and diversifies, the actions to get there also look different for everyone. The “hustle porn” narrative of having to go through struggles and pain and being an asshole to get to where you want to be has been demystified by many successful founders, but in reality it’s not easy at all. Going after what you want can feel like the whole universe is preventing you from doing so. To hustle or not to hustle? The answer to that question is probably to do the best at the things that genuinely interest you so that you are okay the loneliness, the misunderstanding, and still being kind to the people around you.

And here I am, fully aware of the ability to be anything, floating and drowning in this obscurity. By the end of the day, the challenge is practicing radical self-awareness. The fear of self deception and not living a meaningful life hit us a lot earlier than the usual mid-life crisis.

One sure path to alleviate anxiety is to make progress, but the two main things that I make sure I have an answer to before acting: what to work on and how to work.

They sound deceivingly simple, but I bet if I ask most people about those two things, they wouldn't tell me an answer that really aligns with what they are currently working on right now.

In reality, finding meaningful problems to solve requires diligence (getting so good at something, so you have options), courage (making necessary changes in life), and patience (trying out different things before finding the spark). I've observed that most people spend way too much time on how they work, over-optimizing for productivity hacks to get tasks done. What’s more effective is actually to work on something you care deeply about, not what people around you care about (if they happen to be the same, then you find your people!) I'm still tweaking this thing every day, and I believe I'm getting closer.

In terms of how to work, actually the simpler the better. I divide my time into 25-minute uninterrupted blocks that have four categories: creating, working, connecting, and learning. I allocate what matters to me the most first, which is creating. I do at least 4 blocks of creating a day. Sometimes it goes to 8 blocks.

Creating is writing, designing, making, opening up. It's what's closest to my heart and closets to my dream of being able to unlock people's creative potential.

Connecting is to connect with like-minded individuals, and I only meet with people when I have a specific idea or issue I want to pick their brains about. I try to minimize meeting just for general advice (both as a receiver and a giver).

Working is providing service to others. I actually love my work, but the danger is the distractions that endless emails and research may "feel" productive but are actually low impact tasks.

Learning is also necessary to fuel for my soul, but as the above three all teach me valuable lessons, skill learning (from Coursera, Masterclass, or reading) become a luxury when I am busy, but I still try to fit in at least one block a day.

Like the illustration above, I only have that many blocks a day, and allocating my time and energy this way has made me do a lot less but got a lot more done. For me, there’s no such thing as professional development, as I see my work as a part of my personal development. Talk to me if you are also thinking about a new way of personal development for the Information Age. I'm currently creating an experience around that area, I would love to hear what you think.

Stay real,

Tina


Vice Ventures

What caught my attention this week in venture is a new fund called Vice Ventures that raised $25 mil and explicitly invest in early stage companies in industries like cannabis, sextech, psychedelics, and CBD, areas many traditional funds avoid due to the “vice clauses”.

The most interesting about this news to me is the manifesto that the founder Catharine Dockery wrote:

In a world where the most mundane of companies can cause social harm, is it simpler for us to look for evil in companies which make products that society disapproves of? The hunt for morally satisfying investments is challenging enough without reducing all vice companies to the same level. Not being evil should be about more than the product a company produces — it should be about how they plan to operate and, most importantly, how they interact with their consumers.

[…]

The challenge of defining evil, then, is one of the most central ideas of vice investing. I have spent a great deal of time working to define how morals will influence our investment strategy. 

In place of a single statement, I’ve created several rules which I try to use as bare guidelines, backed up by a more intuitive sense of how companies and products influence society in a positive or negative way.

She then lays out some standards the firm establishes:

1) Good investments have founders and leaders who are ethical, open, and honest.

2) Good vice products are created for, marketed to, and consumed by consenting, responsible, and understanding adults who have power over their decisions.

3) Good vice products keep their consumers informed of how they may be affected by them.

4) Good vice companies care about their customers, and have real-world expectations for their behavior.

I’m just as intrigued by their investment plan as the ethical debate that the fund will inspire in the future.

Some workout musings… 💦

I went all galaxy brain in the gym the other day, so I jot these down in my Notes app.

Strength, power and endurance are all forms of muscular ability. While excelling in some sports requires a greater proportion of one type of muscular ability, most sports require all three.

Your ability to move weight, move it with speed and continue moving it for extended periods of time will help you be a better all-around athlete. A comprehensive training program includes phases that improve all three.

I took this straight out of livestrong.com, because I recently realized how I’m extremely good at endurance when it comes to fitness, and very poor at power.

Then I randomly applied the same metrics to my career, and I've recently been trying to model my self development that way.

Strength: strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert maximal force against resistance.

Strength in career: ability to make large impact, usually leveraged by people you work with or the place you work for.

Power: power is the ability to move weight with speed. Power is explosiveness.

Power in career: ability to get something done super well, efficiently, and effectively. This is mostly leveraged by daily training and honing of technical skills.

Endurance: endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert sub-maximal force against resistance for an extended period of time.

Endurance in career: ability to stuck with it when things get shitty. This is leveraged by the mental toughness one develops through experience or mental practice (like meditation).

To be an all-star, we need to work on all three, but we also need to be aware of where our natural advantages lie.

I came across how many copies of these books got sold the year they got published.

This is my kind of self help content.


I also learned two interesting terms. Both link to very interesting reads.

🌲 Bonsai Brands

DTC businesses are Bonsai Brands. They look very like big successful businesses. But they are a lot smaller and don’t grow beyond a certain size.

💰HENRY: High Earners Not Rich Yet (yikes)

A term to describe the upper middle class shopper and the HENRY ('High Earner Not Rich Yet') set and the coveted target audience for literally all the Bonsai Brands as well as large businesses like Walmart and Amazon.

A community that brings together impact-driven thinkers and makers.

Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.

That’s it. I love you. 💙

Share with the world if you enjoyed this. 🌍

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