Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the startupy newsletter, where I share an eclectic assortment of links, thoughts, and ideas curated in and around the startupy universe. Join me down the rabbit hole.
Here are this week's 10 things worth sharing:
HOW TO SAY NO
I enjoyed this by Anne Helen Petersen on how to politely decline invitations and requests for your time.
I’ve also collected a bunch of how to say no templates in a Google Doc, which you can access here.
THE BEST COVER SONG OF ALL TIME
Prince’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You tops my list. Share yours in the comments!
YOU CAN’T REACH THE BRAIN THROUGH THE EARS
This essay by Adam Mastroianni on why we have to learn everything the hard way is so well written and so spot on.
It made me think about being a parent — there’s so much wisdom I want to share with my kids — but it turns out words just don’t have the same power and most learning comes from experiencing things first-hand.
The other thing it made me think of is that “knowing something” doesn’t give you the capacity to act on that knowledge. So many things take more than just knowing. As someone who reads a lot, I know so many things. But that often results in a state of knowing yet not doing, which can feel embarrassingly weighty.
IS THIS IT?
This reflection by Katie Hawkins Gaar on getting older and turning 38 is very relatable and perfectly describes the feeling I have now - at 35 - when I know I’m still young but the doors of possibility certainly feel fewer and father between:
Is this it? Sometimes I look at my partner after a disagreement, my child after a meltdown, my house after something breaks, and I think: Is this really what life turned out to be? More often, I look critically at myself—my tired eyes, my wrinkled forehead, my struggles to join group conversations, my endless list of worries—and think: Is this really who I turned out to be?
Sooner or later, I find that moment of clarity: This is it! This is all I ever needed.
A BEAUTIFUL PASSAGE FROM CARL SAGAN’S COSMOS
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
We are made of starstuff. So beautiful and humbling.
GOOD THINGS DON’T SCALE
I really loved this piece by Vicki Boykis, where she argues that being big is hard (for countries and for the Internet) by pointing out all the amazing things a country like Iceland can do because it is small... like the president giving boys rides home from soccer practice, and welcoming the country’s refugees at his house.
It brought me back to this excerpt from Scott Belsky’s most recent newsletter, where he wonders whether AI will spur the growth of highly crafted unscalable experiences:
So, the question that keeps me up at night is, what are us humans gonna do with all of our newfound time? Which brings me back to Japan, and this quaint Kyoto restaurant I found myself sitting in one evening. There were 10 seats, one chef/owner and one apprentice, and the most incredibly crafted experience. It wasn’t expensive, but everything was intentional. I found myself admiring this sensational and remarkably unscalable experience. The chef seems to make a good living, loves meeting interesting people, and gets to be wildly creative (the selection of glassware, the decor, the care and craft applied to every dish). Japan is full of these experiences, where art, curiosity, and craftsmanship yield tiny scattered wonders like “owl cafes,” micro arcades, plastic food shops, cotton candy shops, and the list goes one. I found myself wondering, why aren’t there 1000x more of these experiences in all societies? Why must the purpose of business be to scale, grow bigger, become franchises, squeeze in more seats, and compromise quality for automation and reach? Could a fundamental change in society, like mass automation and AI, spur both the growth and demand of human-intensive highly crafted unscalable experiences?
And this sentence I highlighted many many years ago:
You walk down your high street. What do you prefer to see there? The economist will say: Walmart, Best Buy, the Gap. Scale economies — cheaper prices — better for “consumers”! But the human being will say: an independent cafe, a good bookshop, a boutique clothing store. Why? Because they offer many things that mega scale organizations don’t.
GOOD. THINGS. TAKE. TIME.
HOW NEW METAPHORS CREATE NEW REALITIES
I’m currently reading metaphors we live by, so the idea that new metaphors are capable of creating new understandings and, therefore, new realities, is very present in my mind.
Here’s a cool example from a 1995 Steve Jobs interview:
Playboy: Most computers use key strokes to enter instructions, but Macintosh replaces many of them with something called a mouse—a little box that is rolled around on your desk and guides a pointer on your computer screen. It’s a big change for people used to keyboards. Why the mouse?
Jobs: If I want to tell you there is a spot on your shirt, I’m not going to do it linguistically: “There’s a spot on your shirt 14 centimeters down from the collar and three centimeters to the left of your button.” If you have a spot—“There!” [he points]—I’ll point to it. Pointing is a metaphor we all know.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
I keep coming back to Clay Herbert’s talk: The Best Way To Answer “So What Do You Do?”
LASTLY, MY WISH FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND
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You raise a good point about knowing a lot of things.
I’ve noticed that the smartest people I know have the uncanny ability to recall the perfect information at the right time.
Ok best covers... for sure it's gotta be Nina Simone doing "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen