Two months ago, the UN released a terrifying report that shows beyond any doubt “unprecedented nature’s dangerous decline” and “accelerating species extinction rates”. The report presents a long list of facts and numbers about the ecological catastrophe we are facing but one figure shocked me: 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters.
In the last paragraph the report very briefly touches on a potential solution: “steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth”. Alas, it seems very unlikely that the world will steer away from the model it has employed to progress for the last 150 years any time soon.
Which means we’ll need to think harder about potential solutions…
On to The Fireside…
New Project: I launched a new side project, SmilePostcards that allows you to create a personalised postcard in 30 seconds and send it anywhere in the world. From $0.99/postcard. No minimum.
New Books: It’s been a while since the last Fireside and in this time I’ve read 13 books. The best one was probably “So good they can’t ignore you” in which Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice. Indeed, he goes as far as saying that this belief can actually be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping. Luckily, he offers an explanation of what makes people love what they do and how anyone can achieve it. A must-read for any millennial.
Notable mentions: “Never split the difference”, “Food rules” and “Genome: The Autobiography Of Species In 23 Chapters”.
New podcasts: Joe Rogan’s interview of Naval Ravikant is probably THE podcast of the year. In classic Rogan’s style, the podcast is over 2 hours long but you’ll wish it was longer. Also, Sam Harris and Shane Parrish talk mental models, how to think and many other interesting things. Probably four of the best thinkers on the planet share their thoughts on pretty much everything. Put the kettle on and enjoy it.
➤ The links
The world is dominated by fat-tails distributions. For example, a tiny fraction of your network is responsible for most of your professional success and a small group of books have massively changed your point of view. I’ve known about this fact (called “Pareto rule”, or the “80/20 rule”) for years but I always struggled to figure out how to put it into practice in my life. In this very pragmatic article, Taylor Pearson explains how so called “fat-tails distributions” dominate the world and how you can use this mental model to their advantage. If you read only one article, make it this one.
One of the hottest topics of the last decade has been mental models. They are considered by many the holy grail to improving decision making and, in general, getting better at pretty much anything. But whilst mental models are great, most of them are effectively useless in real life. This is a paradox people who know mental models have known for a long time. In this series of posts, the author explains what is wrong with mental models and what a better approach might be.
The majority of people have a big misconception about psychedelics. They think they are evil/wrong/unethical and even immoral. On the other hand, psychedelics have proved to help people get rid of all sorts of mental illnesses and addictions to a point where some people have called this decade the “Renaissance of psychedelics”. If you are interested in the topics watch this video where Tim Ferriss interviews Michael Pollan, the author of “How to Change Your Mind”.
If you work in a service industry (that is, if you work in front of a computer), producing high quality work is all about mastering the art of deep work. Based on Cal Newport’s book (yes, the same guy of “So good they can’t ignore you”), this comprehensive guide will teach you to harness your focus, ditch distractions, and improve your productivity.
Dirty money needs laundering if it’s to be of any use – and the UK is the best place in the world to do it. “The British company registration system contains a giant loophole – the kind of loophole you can drive a billion euros through without touching the sides. That is why UK shell companies have enabled financial crime all over the world, from giant acts of kleptocratic plunder to sad and squalid frauds that rob pensioners of their retirement savings.”
★ Other things from the internet
(That may or may not make you look smart at dinner parties)
There’s a parasite living inside fish eyeball that can control its behaviour. When the parasite is young, it helps its host stay safe from predators. But once it matures, it does everything it can to make the fish easy to catch and continue its life cycle.
Letters of note is a blog that collects amazing historical letters. This is the letter H. R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s Chief of Staff, wrote in case the Apollo 11 mission turned out to be a disaster.