143: Thesis & Khe Hy
A recap of the Thesis festival and 3 clips from my salon on productivity with Khe Hy, founder of Rad Reads.
I aim for 50 issues of this newsletter a year, which gives me 2 cheat weekends a year and I guess I just used one of them. The Thesis Festival was a blast but it took longer for me to pull something together than I wanted to—and then I left for a work offsite.
I write to you at an incredibly tumultuous time.
Silicon Valley Bank (the bank of choice for all 3 of my venture-backed startups) experienced a bank run and is now under the control of the FDIC as of Friday, and the fate of tens if not hundreds of thousands of startup employees hangs in the balance of their decisions come Monday.
Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal is reporting a second round of layoffs at Meta that could be on par the first in terms of size. This one has been brewing for weeks but when WSJ calls it, you know it is close.
Struggle never sleeps, so keep practicing resilience.
📆 Reboot Your Life: Name and Claim Your Values (Wed 3/22)
I'm hosting another Interintellect salon, my 3rd in a series on rebooting your life (they don't build on each other so feel free to jump in). This one is all about what it means to develop a set of personal values for yourself and includes another fun use of GPT-3 to help you articulate those values in a unique way.
👉 Thesis Recap
It's been a long time since I've attended an in-person conference or large-scale gathering. I've been to offsites, a dinner party or cocktail event here or there, but COVID really put a lid on my big event attendance. But when Every and Interintellect decided to host a festival of my favorite writers and thinkers on the internet, I was determined to be there.
Getting a chance to then host a conversation with Khe Hy, a leading writer and teacher on the art of productivity and meaningful living, was lovely bonus. More on our conversation below.
When we talk about resilience, we often talk about reaching out to people and spending time in community. But not all people and not all gatherings are the same. You have to find where your people are, where you feel a sense of deep kinship and shared values—and I was fortunate to find that here.
The talks I attended were full of wisdom, unconventional thinking, and a raw authenticity that's lacking from the typical speaker / podcast circuit talk. Visa's reference of the Rudolph / deviance meme and the importance of having a group of peers who will challenge and support you will stay in my mind for a very long time.
And of course the impromptu conversations:
This has renewed my interest in gatherings and the right events—and with NYC COVID cases as low as they've been since summer 2021 (remember those sweet days?)—safer to do so than ever.
🧠 $10k Work and Going Deeper Than Just Productivity Hacks with Khe Hy
I really enjoyed hosting Khe Hy, creator of Rad Reads and inventor of the 10k work system for prioritizing the projects that really matter. During our hour-long conversation at Thesis, we explored his journey leaving the hamster wheel of achievement to building a business that has leverage and how he teaches others to ask the existential questions behind their drive towards productivity.
The 5 Why's
Khe teaches a course called Supercharge Your Productivity where the unofficial motto is "come for the productivity, stay for the existential". In this first clip, we talk about how he uses a manufacturing technique from Toyota to drive a deeper understanding of what motivates his students to be more productive.
Like with productivity, strategies for resilience are more effective when you know what you're moving towards, not just what you're trying to run away from. You're burned out from your job—but what do you really want instead? And why do you want that?
Telic vs Atelic Activities
Khe contrasts the idea of telic activities, meaning purposeful and directed towards an end with atelic ones, activities that are an end in themselves. And at first glance, the telic activities seem more productive. In my head, I hear my mom or dad telling me to "go do something useful". But when it comes to living a meaningful life, finding a balance between doing things with some higher purpose and things with no additional purpose.
It reminds me of Kant's second formulation of his categorical imperative:
Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
In an ideal world, we could make all our activities both serve some higher purpose and be meaningful in of itself.
Risk-Adjusted $10K Work
Khe is perhaps best known for his concept of "$10k work", which is based on a 2x2 matrix of high leverage and high skill work. But while this sounds like the best kind of work, you actually have to have a diversified portfolio of $10, $100, and $1000 work.
This way of thinking makes sense to Khe, whose background is in finance. In his 30's, he became the youngest director of Blackrock—the world's largest asset management firm—before leaving to launch Rad Reads. In this clip we talk about what $10k work means and how to have a risk-adjusted portfolio of work.
Jason Shen | Cultivating Resilience Newsletter
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