Challenging the startup hype

I’m a big believer in doing or advocating for only those things that if they were to garner mass adoption they’d lead to net positive impact on the collective. In other words, I’d like to humbly propose for a stronger orientation around this question:

Would I want to live in a world where everyone did or believed in this thing? Why or why not?

More specifically, mired as I am in the strange distorted world of Startup Land (TM), I’d like to see those of us in Silicon Valley and its equivalents think more critically about whether we should all be doing what we’re doing when it comes to our unbridled orgies of capital and (sometimes questionable) innovation run amok.

Here are some topics of discussion I hope we all start to examine more closely, if only to be thoughtful and responsible stewards of the privilege many of us have inherited (or earned!) as a result of being in Silicon Valley, and all the financial and social capital that accompany it.

More specifically, let’s consider:

  1. Cause & longevity: Whether the unprecedented popularity of starting businesses is a fad (temporary) or a trend (a sustained shift). To what extent the permanent changes in work, automation, and technological changes are at the root of our newfound obsession with starting companies, and to what extent a temporary lack of economic opportunities coupled with immense student debt are to blame.

  2. Macro impact & labor markets: The internet and its various gurus seem to think so—but is entrepreneurship actually for everyone? What happens when no one wants to be a worker bee and everyone wants to build their own hive? Will the labor markets adjust so that being an employee or doing the “unsexy” work will become more lucrative as supply and demand calibrate? Or will all the unsexy work be outsourced such that the global markets become the arenas of correction? And what does this mean for our standards of leisure and beliefs around work and work ethic?

  3. Moral & philosophical concerns: What responsibility do we have to redirect time, human capital, and actual capital towards the good (i.e. useful) ideas instead of all ideas? How can we self-reflect more so we’re driven by altruism (or at least creativity) vs. just self-interest and opportunism? (Side note: instead of blindly opting into OR rolling our eyes at the psychedelics trend so prevalent in the tech world, can we extend this even further and encourage people to harness these “plant technologies” to break through to clarity around what really drives them?)

I appreciate the irony of my posting this, given that I’m both an entrepreneur and enabler of other entrepreneurs. But in fact I think this is precisely why these questions have consumed me so much: I like to do things thoughtfully and strive to challenge my own thinking. There was a time when I was far more unrestrained and exuberant about everyone pursuing their so-called passions—but even my understanding of what that should mean has evolved. I like to think I’ve become a little more nuanced in general since then, and a little less susceptible to the modern zeitgeist of #hustleporn. (I believe the other term for this is “jaded.”)

I also find that sometimes our most acute or scathing critiques of a thing come not from a dislike of it but on the contrary a deep and personal investment in its success. Such is the case here: I like startups. I appreciate (parts of) capitalism. I want to see technology, entrepreneurship, and the capitalist systems in which they are embedded to thrive so they can continue to uplift our baseline of collective living standards, but I’d also like to see this happen with the least amount of delusion and injustice possible.

The road to this kind of sustained positive impact must, in my opinion, involve honest examinations of the externalities of our systems. We have to ask the hard questions and not be purely consumed by personal ambition (and we must have the courage and self-acceptance to admit it when it is ambition that drives us). Let’s go beyond our discussions of the new self-driving cars or hyper-innovative technologies. Let’s go beyond the latest shifts in venture capital trends. Let’s look with honesty at ourselves so we can proceed with sober but curious minds towards the world we want to live in.

Everyone should read this

I’ve been long occupied with the question of what a just world would look like. I’ve considered the question from a geopolitical perspective (and read far too much Noam Chomsky than any 15-year-old should be reading in the process); from a financial and economic perspective (the focus of my studies at Brown); from even a spiritual perspective, since this is a lens through which I tend to view all things.

So far I’ve encountered no thinker so astute as Charles Eisenstein when it comes to weaving these perspectives together to draw out heavy but incisive truths on the state of the collective today and what true progress requires.

I won’t attempt to synthesize. I’ll only point to this essay as a worthy entry point into his body of work as a whole, which I find to be an antidote to untruth and a refreshing marriage of the empathetic and rational in a world so inclined to cleave the two apart. The subject at hand is how we measure human progress and what our current assessments leave out.

Please give it a read.

The Ideology of Development by Charles Eisenstein

My favorite podcasts

Over the last 5 years I’ve probably listened to over 1000+ hours of podcasts. If you know me well, this should come as no surprise: I love thoughtful conversation (even if it means eavesdropping on it) and am compulsively seeking new ideas to enrich my mental frameworks.

It almost seems too good to be true to me that this vast wealth of spoken content is freely accessible if you have an internet connection and a smartphone, and I intend to not take this for granted.

As you can imagine, I’ve culled through my fair share of podcasts, so I’ve decided to finally compile a list of my favorites. This list is wide-ranging—but if anything has been included, it means I’ve listened to enough episodes and have enjoyed their quality enough overall that I’m willing to endorse them.

I have underlined the ones I personally find notable for their category (i.e. for what they are trying to do, they do it well). I’ve also starred* the ones that appear in multiple categories, since many podcasts span a range of topics.

Spiritual / soulful podcasts

For the friends who love exploring the deeper existential ideas, whether secular or full-on New Agey.

  • On Being

  • Relationship Alive

  • Insights at the Edge

  • Tara Brach

  • Rich Roll Podcast

  • School of Greatness*

  • Aubrey Marcus Podcast

  • Awaken Radio

  • Priestess Podcast

  • Beautiful Writers*

  • Buddha at the Gas Pump

  • Conversations with Alanis Morisette

  • Emerging Women

  • Good Life Project

  • Hay House Radio

  • Inspire Nation

  • Manifest This

  • Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

  • That’s So Retrograde*

Startup / business podcasts

For either friends who are interested in purely online business & marketing, hearing interviews with bootstrapped founders, or absorbing the wisdom of Silicon Valley heavyweights.

  • How I Built This

  • 33 Voices

  • A16Z Podcast

  • Acquired FM

  • School of Greatness*

  • Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

  • Foundr Magazine Podcast

  • From Scratch

  • Grey Matter from Greylock Partners

  • How to Start a Startup by YC

  • Masters in Business with Barry Ritholz by Bloomberg

  • Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman

  • Mixergy

  • Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield

  • Product Hunt Radio

  • Startup School by YC

  •  The Goal Digger Podcast*

  • Smart Passive Income Podcast

  • The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten

  • The 20 Minute VC

  • The Tim Ferriss Show*

Personal development / self-help

For the friends who love optimizing their habits, improving their mindset, or just doing the inner work necessary to grow and thrive as a human being.

  • Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod

  •  The Goal Digger Podcast*

  • The James Altucher Show

  • The Life Coach School with Brook Castillo

  • The One You Feed

  • The Tim Ferriss Show*

Literary podcasts

For my fellow book lovers—specifically for those who love literary books, from poetry to nonfiction to fiction. Some of these are also particularly helpful if you consider yourself a writer and want to refine your craft.

  • Slate’s Audio Book Club

  • Beautiful Writers*

  • Bookworm

  • LA Review of Books

  • Longform Podcast

  • Otherppl with Brad Listi

Health & fitness

If, from time to time, you get obsessed with getting the most out your eating and fitness habits like me.

  • Ben Greenfield Fitness

  • That’s So Retrograde*

  • The goop Podcast

  • The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson

Women in business & leadership

For anyone else who finds themselves constantly scanning through magazines and interview shows looking for the (infrequent) profiles of women specifically.

  • Boss Files with Poppy Harlow

  • Girlboss Radio

  • I Want Her Job

  • Katie Couric*

  • Radio Cherry Bombe

  • Second Life

  • Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff

  • WSJ’s Secrets of Wealthy Women

Culture & current events

This is a bit of a catch-all category for me, since I’ll sooner listen to interviews with interesting people than hear meandering commentary on what’s happening today, but occasionally I’m bit by the bug and want to hear tirades on the latest issue in culture or politics. Some of these are interview-based shows, actually, but they focus more on arts/culture/current events than anything overtly educational.

  • Still Processing

  • Slate’s Culture Gabfest

  • EconTalk

  • NPR’s Fresh Air

  • Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin

  • Katie Couric*

  • The Ezra Klein Show

Ecommerce

I imagine this is useful to a small segment of my friends, since most of them aren’t in this industry but of all the ecommerce-focused content out there, these are the ones I find to be more dense in actionable, relevant takeaways.

  • Ecommerce Fuel

  • Ecommerce MasterPlan

  • Shopify Masters

  • The Ecommerce Influence Podcast

  • My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast

  • The Product Boss

  • Nerd Marketing

Beauty & retail

For those who are in the beauty/retail/fashion industries or are just avid consumers who love keeping a pulse on the landscape.

  • Fat Mascara

  • The Glossy Podcast

  • The Glossy Beauty Podcast

  • Loose Threads

  • Well Made

  • That’s So Retrograde*

This is my list! Hope you get something out of it. If you ever want more specifics as far as what you’re looking for and which ones I think you’d like (and don’t want to waste time wading through all of these), feel free to ask me personally and I’ll try my best to make personalized suggestions.


How to develop your intuition

Developing your intuition feels a lot like gaining a superpower. It feels empowering and it makes life feel benevolent, joyful, and truly miraculous. If you feel called to deepen your intuition, I recommend investing some time and energy into this to accelerate the process.

Here’s my practice for increasing your intuitive powers.

  1. Become highly attuned to yourself. This is about becoming more aware of what’s going on within you moment to moment so you know what you’re really feeling or needing at any given time. This sounds simple but it’s I find that it’s surprisingly challenging. Yet this skill is absolutely critical for all the other skills that help us live more deeply & joyfully. Learn to check in daily. Become present. Ask yourself questions the way you’d ask a precious young child: How are you feeling? What do you need right now? What’s scaring you? What’s exciting you? This is also the foundation of self-love.

  2. Act on your self-awareness. The more you say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no, the more this still small voice will speak to you. The voice of your true needs is the same voice that gives you intuitive hits, in my experience, so honor it and listen to it so it can strengthen. Ask for the things you want. Say no to the things you don’t. Remove all “should’s” from your vocabulary and actions. Be brutally selective about your social decisions. And speak up even if you don’t feel like it’s a “big deal.” (But do it with kindness.) These are the things that will help you become more in touch with yourself, which is a prerequisite to becoming more intuitive.

  3. Ask your intuition to speak to you more clearly. One magical part of being a human is that we can broadcast our desires out into the world. You can literally ask for every single thing that you want! Even if you ask, you may not always get it if it’s not in the highest good—or it may take time. But if you don’t ask, you will certainly not receive it as easily. This intentional, open-hearted asking practice (which is pretty similar to prayer) helps the Intelligence of life understand what you want so it can start working to give it to you—and it will also demonstrate to your own mind that you mean business. There’s also some hidden power to speaking things out loud or writing them down that helps them physically materialize more quickly, I find, so journal out this intention if you feel moved to.

  4. Learn to discern your intuition from fear or hope. Intuition is 1) more quiet, 2) more simple, and 3) more calm. It feels good, usually. Or more accurately, it somehow feels right. As you start to develop your intuition you’ll get “pings” that you aren’t sure about. Trust them. Don’t overanalyze them too much. The more you trust your intuitive hits, the more you’ll learn to discern their subtle signatures from everything else, even though it may seem like the process should be the other way around.

  5. Know and believe that your intuition is strong and clear. Affirm this to yourself daily. Trust it like it’s not a big deal. Remember that you live in a world where the truth can be readily accessed if we are open to it, no matter how limited our physical five senses are. The more you affirm this sixth sense as a part of your everyday toolkit, the more powerful it’ll get. You’ll start to get to a point eventually where it’ll guide you on even small day-to-day decisions, like what to say, where to go, and how to avoid little mistakes or inconveniences. The prerequisite to having this voice be your constant, trusty companion is to believe that it’s real and that anyone—including you—can access and develop it.

  6. Honor your intuition. Just like a real person will probably stop sharing with you their insights if you keep ignoring them, so will your intuition. It’s vital to honor what your intuition tells you to do or where it tells you to go when it does speak to you, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the moment. Very often it won’t. Trust it anyway. Don’t worry about trusting the “wrong” voice, or the voice of impulsiveness or emotion. The more you practice, the more you’ll find that the voice of your emotional impulses is very different from the voice of your deeper intuition, so very quickly you’ll learn to tell them apart and you won’t be led astray.

  7. Pay attention to external signs. Tools like tarot or oracle cards are built precisely to help you access a knowing that is not evident to the rational mind, and can therefore be a huge help. Additionally, it’s a good practice to pay attention to signs or synchronicities in the form of songs, animals, books, and coincidences you encounter in your daily life. They are often the methods that Intelligence uses to reach us if our more “direct” channels are blocked. When you operate with the assumption that everything is conspiring to guide you lovingly and communicatively, you will start to see evidence of this in every little encounter. You may even experience what I like to call “the opening of the matrix” which is when you first discover this new paradigm of intuition and metaphysics in which uncanny synchronicities start to happen at a hyper-accelerated pace. They will first seem surprising and mysterious and quickly become your new normal, which is a fun transition. :)

These tips have helped me and I hope they help you! Intuition is a gift and a pathway to miracles. And cultivating it is a great way to access your power and make the best of your life.

Becoming the giver of love

Two years ago I entered a relationship that would teach me more about love—and all the places within me that struggled to receive it and give it—than anything I’ve ever experienced. That relationship ended this year, and its rupture was a cataclysm in my life. But I am actively, profoundly grateful for it now because it woke me up to where I needed to learn to love myself and to be kind towards others. Sometimes a loss can be so profound that we become determined to make something beautiful out of its wreckage, and that in itself is a gift.

And so I set the heartfelt intention this year to learn to become a person who is absolutely masterful at being loving instead of always seeking to be loved.

We’re all walking around with the secret yearning to be loved. We might as well be cupping our hands together for all the longing we each carry for acceptance, love, and intimacy from others, and for how powerfully this drives our whole lives.

Yes, we can do evil things and reckless things, but we do it out of brokenness and longing. This I believe. I believe that we are, at our very core, profoundly innocent and childlike, and we err only when we lose touch with our sincerest longings and become mired in illusions about what will make us feel enough. And I believe that everywhere there is darkness in the world is merely the external reflection of where we are starved for the light of awareness, which looks a lot like love.

Maybe this is naive, romanticized, simplistic. I stand by it all the same. There’s no one out there that does not want to be accepted, understood, seen, and loved for what it seen. And so much of my life has been spent blindly grasping for this from others by trying to become more successful, more worthy, more enough.

But I’ve had enough of trying to be enough. I’d rather start trying to be the one to give love. If we’re all hungry for scraps of affection from each other, who’s going to be the one to give the nourishment, to offer this sustenance?

So I’ve prayed this year—an unexpectedly life-altering practice. I’ve prayed repeatedly and sincerely to become more loving. To open my heart so I can more easily extend forgiveness, kindness, acceptance. And I’ve learned firsthand the dangerous truth of heartfelt prayer, which is that you get what you pray for—swiftly and without mercy. I prayed to become loving so naturally, life showered me with circumstances that made it that much harder to summon my reserves of tenderness.

Has it worked? I like to think it has. I feel a greater depth to my capacity to love, feel more generous with my affections, and I feel more willing to love first. And I still come back to this refrain when I can: may I become someone who makes others feel like they can be themselves. May I become someone who is a living example of how to be supportive of the wildest dreams and aspirations of others. May I become the giver and not the seeker of love.