The Entrepreneur Life

Category: Readings

Four (plus one) writers who inspire and shape me

This week I found myself wondering why we wait for someone’s passing to publicly to praise them or to acknowledge our gratitude.

Nearly three months days ago, my father-in-law passed away.  The first few days went by in a haze and we had an endless stream of visitors —relatives, friends, former colleagues and many who were strangers to me. As at my own father’s wake, I learned how my reticent father-in-law had helped or inspired them in their personal and professional lives. Whether it was his personal tax accountant or nationally renowned captain of business, the story often highlighting his sense of humor, was one of specific impact delivered with genuine gratitude. I know my father-in-law would have been touched and even a tad bit embarrassed at such praise.

Whilst my own stories about him will have to wait, I reckoned its time for me to publicly acknowledge the many people (who I’ve never met) yet whose writings not only bring me great joy but educate and shape me. I hope some or all of them bring you the same joy.

Irena Dumitrescu is a professor of medieval English and an essayist. Her latest newsletter is what triggered this particular post. Irena writes The Process, “a newsletter about pursuing a creative life in the face of modern distraction, exhaustion, and just all-around harsh vibes.” By her own admission The Process is not an “every Friday” type of newsletter, but each issue has dug deep. In fact the latest one made me lean over to my wife and hand her my phone and say read this! And to my surprise it had the same degree of impact on my musician spouse as it did on me—particularly the trying hard, the eminently relatable concept of the Romanian a se screme (well known to Tamilians as mukkal!). And certainly the advice “less self-chastisement, and more of a willingness to accept the experience for what it is.”

Joshua Doležal author of The Recovering Academic newsletter is a prolific writer, putting out two of three issues a week. Joshua is a lyrical writer—his prose just as visual as his poetry who’s love for the Montana he grew up in reminds me of Steinbeck’s (very different) America. Recently he’s begun a series around folks who’ve left academia (with an emphasis on those in the humanities) to find a job in the real world. His depth of thought, imaginative writing and sheer output (even while it makes me envious) is a joy and inspiration.

John Naughton, Irish academic and columnist for the Observer whose daily newsletter Memex 1.1 is the first one I’ve read each day (and the one I’ve read the longest!) He’s amongst the best content curators on the internet IMO.  With sections such as  “Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news,” “Long read of the day” and (my favorite) “My commonplace booklet” I find it uplifting, invaluable and an easy read. 

Heather Cox Richardson, historian, author and educator is the author of the daily newsletter “Letters from an American” is someone I discovered only this year. Whilst I avoid catching the “news” in any sort of real time, and Heather on many an occassion does cover the events of the day, her overall factual and more importantly optimistic take on the events of the day has now made her newsletter the one I read first each day. Of course she covers a good deal of American history using dates and anniversaries as a trigger—a thoroughly absorbing and education read. 

Om Malik (the plus one without whom this list would not be complete) writer, photographer and investor is the one blogger that I’ve followed across the years. The breadth of his writing—whether on tech, the business and people of tech, his prognostications, or photography or the personal he keeps it not just real but provocative. And he gives John Naughton a run for his money as a content curator.

My father-in-law would have been 94 this Fall. Even as I remember him and cherish the time I had with him, I want to acknowledge the these amazing writers who inspire and shape me today.

What I’ve been reading this last week

books-education-school-literature-51342.jpegAs with so many other folks,  I’m trying to spend less time on my phone and computer reading the news obsessively. Yet there’s ever more great reading out there and accessible in ways we haven’t had before. But discovering, reading, assimilating and internalizing even a fraction of what we’d like is hard.  Yes, technology like Pocket and GoodReads help, but it’s still a firehose.

Om Malik, tech journalist and blogger extraordinaire has always been a regular source of great readings as has Brad Feld, venture capitalist, and all-around inspiring human. Inspired by their example, I’ve resolved to share interesting things that I’m reading each month. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting and useful. Share your own thoughts on what you’ve been reading and enjoying.

Practice learning from history  Despite trying to maintain a reading diet low in politics, I found this piece I’m a law professor, and I teach my students how to destroy American democracy by Ozan Varol fascinating. Despite its click-bait title, Ozan’s premise draws from a business strategy formulation process at Merck. CEO Kenneth Frazier wanting to promote innovation asked his employees “to generate ideas to destroy Merck and figure out how to put Merck out of business. The executives then reversed their roles and crafted strategies to avert these threats.

When Ozan had his class run a similar exercise, he states “The exercise made the urgency of action clear. In this century, the threat to democracy will come, not from military coups or openly repressive dictators, but from elected politicians in seemingly democratic countries who gradually roll out an authoritarian agenda. The students realized the importance of remaining vigilant against these strategies and actively resisting them through legal, political, and social means.” Read the full piece here.

“What privacy?” in the era of Alexa Om is the one who turned me on to this Gizmodo article  The House That Spied on Me by Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu. On one hand, I was fascinated by how much a journalist is prepared to do and (over) share for a story and on the other scared witless by the amount of data that’s being gathered and shared shredding any last illusions I had about privacy. The scariest part for me personally is the sheer number of my friends, who seem to have made Alexa and her competitors an integral part of their lives. Read the full piece here.

Before the rest of us feel too comfortable read this bonus piece on how fitness trackers share information that you might not want them to.

Skilling ourselves One of the joys of working young people is that I learn a lot from them. In turn, you get to see them handling, sometimes better and at other times no worse, issues we’ve faced in our own lives. Of course, a common question that pops up from nearly everyone – from young adults to middle-aged folks, is the issue of what do I want in life? I found this article on Don’t Know What You Want? Improve These 7 Universal Skills by Darius Foroux quite useful. If like many others you’re still looking for your true purpose. Check out the complete article here.

In summary

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