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The Jungle Gym - June 2019

Friends, Last Sunday I was all set to send this email, when I logged in to find all the text had bee
The Jungle Gym
The Jungle Gym - June 2019
By Nick deWilde • Issue #5 • View online
Last Sunday I was all set to send this email, when I logged in to find all the text had been deleted 😭. The folks at Revue have assured me they haven’t seen anything like this before, but sadly I wasn’t able to recover a couple of the sections.
Fortunately, I backed up the other parts. And, I think I’m actually happier with the second draft.
In other news, yesterday I got married! Or at least I assume I got married. I’m actually scheduling this email before the wedding. While there’s a risk that Ashley doesn’t go through with it, I’ve decided take my chances.
Lots of good stuff for you this month including:
  • A theory of what makes Notion special
  • Advice for finding a life partner, even if you’re afraid of commitment
  • Lots of quality links
But before you dive in
I’m creating a master list of public information sources that you all use to stay current on your function, industry, etc. These can be newsletters, Slack groups, Twitter feeds, Youtube channels, or anything else that makes you better at your job.
Anyone who contributes three sources, will get access to the full list once it’s ready.
You’ll be my hero if you can take 3 minutes to fill it out.

Notion is the living room of the "cozyweb"
From culture wars to endless surveillance, the public internet has become an exhausting place to spend time. Lately, people are taking notice and retreating from the public web into the dark forests of the internet.
These are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments.
In Venkatesh Rao refers to this space as the “cozyweb.”
Unlike the main public internet, which runs on the (human) protocol of “users” clicking on links on public pages/apps maintained by “publishers”, the cozyweb works on the (human) protocol of everybody cutting-and-pasting bits of text, images, URLs, and screenshots across live streams. Much of this content is poorly addressable, poorly searchable, and very vulnerable to bitrot. It lives in a high-gatekeeping slum-like space comprising slacks, messaging apps, private groups, storage services like dropbox, and of course, email.
Recently, I’ve found myself spending more time in these dimly lit cyberspaces. I moved my writing from Medium to this website, started a newsletter, and have been slowly weaning myself off social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Of all the new places where I’ve been spending time, there’s one that epitomizes the promise of the “cozyweb” more than any other. It’s a tool called Notion. I use it as my online living room.
The Living Room
In the real world, the living room is where I write, read, check email, play board games, watch movies, and a dozen other things. To keep me coming back the space needs to be functional, with comfortable seating, good light, and a reasonable temperature. But that doesn’t mean it’s exclusively furnished with practical objects.
To make it a desirable place to spend time a living room has to be aesthetically pleasing. That’s why ours is peppered with throw pillows, coffee-table books, and art. These things make the space inviting for us as well as any guests we have over.
My Notion workspace has a similar setup. Each page must have a practical purpose, or else I wouldn’t spend time there. That said, I spend about as much time selecting icons and cover art as I do setting up the functionality. These artistic flourishes are what make the space inviting for me as well as anyone I invite to take a look.
I’m not the only one. Just watch this video made by a speaker at at a recent Notion community meetup I attended (yes, I’m that big of a nerd):
Is this how people typically share software? To me it looks more like how people share their homes.
I’ve found Notion to be welcome respite from the public square of Twitter or even the water-cooler of Slack. While I used to plan trips on Pinterest, I now find myself saving inspirational images to Notion. Instead of relying on Facebook or Linkedin to catalog my connections, I’ve been building my own relationship tracker in Notion.
Like the living room, Notion appeals to both the introverted and extroverted sides of my personality. It’s a place where I can create and test things out in private. Then, when I’m craving some external validation, I can show off a part of my workspace to as many or as few people as I want. It’s a place where I can think out loud without worrying about the judgement of strangers or the tracking of ad targeting tools.
If you’re looking for a cozy room in the web to call your own, I’d recommend you drop by.
How to find your person when you're scared shitless of commitment
There are only two possible outcomes for a romantic relationship– either you break up or one of you dies. At least that’s what I told my fiancée, Ashley, on our third date in an attempt to explain why I wasn’t ready to commitment (which, incidentally, she never requested).
It may surprise you to learn that I’ve always considered myself a romantic. As a teenager, every time I encountered a cute girl my brain would immediately try to picture our lives together. I desperately wanted to find “the one.” But after a few promising relationships ended, I started getting worried. Soon, my anxiety over not finding the one turned into a fear that I might end up committing to the wrong one. This dread occupied my mind on almost a daily basis for the better part of a decade.
As I write this, Ash and my wedding is less than two days away. While I can’t say I’ve figured out all the secrets to a happy marriage (ask me again in twenty years) I can share how I overcame my fear of commitment to land an amazing life partner.
The most romantic thing I’d every heard
A few months into my relationship with Ashley, things weren’t going well. I was unwilling to get serious, out of a fear that I’d end up hurting her, which made her less than thrilled about our prospects. We were fighting a lot, to the point that a few months in we decided to take a break.
Shortly after we got back together we were discussing my anxiety around commitment and Ash said the most romantic thing I’d ever heard:
“I’m not looking for my soulmate. I’m looking for a partner.”
When I heard it, things suddenly got quiet in my head. I’d spent the last ten years assessing every single romantic interest to determine whether they were “the one.” The resulting chatter in my head was so overwhelming that I rarely felt present with any of my romantic partners. As the meaning of her words dawned on me, I realized I’d been going about the search all wrong.
I had imagined that my perfect person was waiting to be found. She wasn’t. She was waiting for me to put in the work.
Building your ideal relationship takes time, lots of communication, and a willingness to round out the rough edges of your own personality. Instead of waiting for someone who’s already your ideal fit, find that person who makes you want to put in the work.
The upside of commitment
A few months after we got back together, Ash and I started talking about whether we should to move in together. I had never cohabited with a girlfriend before, and always thought it was a step toward losing freedom. As it turned out I was completely wrong.
As soon as we moved in, everything got better. Gone were the tedious logistical conversations about who should sleep at who’s place. We both got more comfortable being silly and vulnerable with one another. Instead of avoiding conversations, like you can when you live apart, we confronted problems directly and became better partners to each other. In fact, I’ve found that every time I’ve committed more to our relationship it’s gotten better and better.
Decide with your head, and your heart
I remember the exact moment I decided to ask Ashley to marry me. She was on stage singing a karaoke version of “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. Watching her sing and dance with abandon, a wave of certainty washed over me, and I knew this was someone I couldn’t live without. The next morning I started Googling “how to pick out an engagement ring” (which could be the subject of a whole other post).
But before that moment came dozens of practical conversations. Where did we want to live? How many kids did we want? How did we want to spend our weekends? Do we like the same art? Not all these were explicit questions. Some were things we found out about each other by spending time together. The important thing was that she wanted most of the same things I did.
For such a monumental decision I needed my head and my heart to come to an agreement. My rational goals had to align with Ashley’s. If not we would end up rowing in opposite directions and never achieving a life that either of us wanted. But I also needed my gut to get on board so I could avoid second guessing myself. Once the two were in agreement all I needed to do was convince Ashley.
Don’t feel bad if you still have more questions than answers. That’s probably how it should be, since who you choose to marry is the most important decision you’ll make in your whole life.
Of course, none of this advice has been truly tested yet. Ash and I still have a lifetime of learning ahead. I don’t imagine that we’ll always be able to live up to our ideal selves. But I know we’re both the kind of people who will commit to putting in the work.
Quick Links
(2 hrs 48 min listen)
This is probably the best resource I’ve encountered on the philosophy behind personal finance. One point that really stuck with me was that “you won’t get rich renting out your time.”
In other words, to get wealthy you’ll need to find ways to make money while you sleep. For that to happen you’ll need to leverage assets and tools to create a positive disconnect between the inputs of your efforts and your output of your rewards.
If gaining financial freedom is of any interest to you, do yourself a favor and take in the whole thing.
(6 min read)
It was less than 40 years ago that business professor Julian Simon wagered biologist Paul Ehrlich that Ehrlich’s dire predictions of mass starvation from overpopulation would not come to pass. While Simon won the bet, I doubt he could have predicted how right he would turn out to be.
U.N. demographers are predicting that the wold population will likely top out at about 9.2 billion in the year 2050. After that, the world population will start to decline.
“The untold story of the hidden half of the chart is that it projects a steady downward plunge toward fewer and fewer people on the planet each year — and no agreement on how close to zero it can go. In fact there is much more agreement about the peak, than about how few people there will be on the planet in a 100 years.”
In the near term this will mean fewer working age people to take care of larger populations of elderly people. In the longer term, it’s hard to imagine how we will be able to sustain the growth that has increased our living standards with a declining and aging world population.
So if you’re thinking about bringing a few extra kids into this world, we’d all greatly appreciate it.
(5 min Read)
Over the past 30 years the share of U.S. citizens with military experience has declined from 18% in 1980 to 7% in 2017. One implications of this is that many of the military mental models that were once common knowledge are no longer widely known. In an effort to change that, Brady Moore has been publishing a great newsletter to share some of these ideas with the general public (for a good introduction to the topics he covers, check out this post).
One concept I’ve picked up from his writing is the idea of a “Quiet Professional.” It’s a model for the type of “self-effacing, action-oriented and team-focused ideal the Green Berets aspire to (and hold each other to).” Reading through the eight traits that Brady highlights, I couldn’t help but notice how a lot of these traits were present in the people I most enjoy working with. Thinking about my own personal growth, the code of the quiet professional, is one I’d like to aspire toward in my own life.
For more details on each of the tenants, you should also check out this post by Rob Shaul.
(12 min read)
Cognitive biases are fun to learn about, but I haven’t met many people who’ve come up with a systematic way to avoid them. This article proposes a checklist of thirteen questions we can ask ourselves when making important decisions. While I’m not sure how much practical use I’ll get out of Buster’s system, I still think it’s worth a read, if only to remind yourself how much effort it takes to overcome your own biases.
(16 min watch)
Every year a handful of people decide to not only end their own lives, but to take as many people out on the way out as possible. The main thing limiting these suicidal mass-murderers is the technology they possess. One of these people with a knife is far less deadly than with a gun. Fortunately, none of them seem to have the ability to end humanity… yet. Unfortunately, it looks like the invention of CRISPR may change all that.
The H5N1 flu strain is deadly to the point that 60% of people who contract it die. Fortunately it’s not very contagious, having killed less than 50 people since 2015. In 2011, two separate research teams modified the H5N1 genome to make it just as deadly and wildly contagious. Since the advent of CRISPR in 2011 this process has only gotten easier. If left unchecked, huge groups of people may soon have the ability to create this type of super bug. I see this as the most frightening existential threat humanity has ever faced.
Fortunately, Rob seems to think there are some technologies out there that offer good potential solutions. But this isn’t something we can wait on. If we want to prevent lone wolves from causing global pandemics in the next few decades, it’s time to start acting.
(17 mins)
It’s easy to fall prey to the belief that greatness is the product of grand accomplishments. When our product launches our company will be great. After my startup exits I’ll be a great entrepreneur. Once my kid gets accepted into an Ivy-League college I’ll be a great parent.
In reality, the greatness we achieve through these pursuits comes from the systems we set up to help us reach our target. These often involve the repetition of small positive habits that, when put together, lead to great results.
Until next time,

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Nick deWilde

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