The Profile: The big bank CEO moonlighting as a D.J. & the ‘crypto pragmatist’
This edition of The Profile features Joe Montana, David Solomon, Alexis Ohanian, and more.
Good morning friends,
Novelist Danielle Steel could teach a masterclass on productivity.
She’s written more than 190 books, works 20 hours a day, and holds the Guinness record for most consecutive weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Oh, and she has nine kids.
When she’s stuck, she pushes through and just keeps working. She works until she’s so tired she could fall asleep on the floor. “I keep working. The more you shy away from the material, the worse it gets,” she says. “You're better off pushing through and ending up with 30 dead pages you can correct later than just sitting there with nothing," she advises.
As I learned more about her story, however, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Steel’s dedication to her craft is admirable or … unhealthy. That’s because a part of me relates to Steel’s work on a personal level: My most productive and creative periods happen when there’s something dark or sad or chaotic going on in my life. I often write because writing serves as a refuge.
Right as I was thinking about this, I read a quote by Steel that echoes this exact sentiment. She says, "My work has always been sort of a saving grace. It's where I take refuge. Even when bad things have happened in my personal life, it's a constant. It's something solid I can escape into.”
In other words, writing acts as her refuge too — a safe place you go when you’re feeling out of control in other areas of your life. The more you write, the less time you have to worry. The less time you have to worry, the more work you can produce.
But then you have to confront the uncomfortable question: Are you successful or overwhelmed? Prolific or rushed? Happy or burnt out?
This is not uncommon for people who do creative work. Many artists and creators have found inspiration in their struggles. Some of the greatest works of art and literature have been born out of adversity, as artists channel their pain into their creations. As psychotherapist Phil Stutz observes, "The highest creative expression for a human being is to be able to create something new right in the face of adversity, and the worse the adversity, the greater the opportunity."
As I was working on this week’s edition of The Profile, I kept seeing this theme come up over and over again. Below, you’ll find big-wave surfing photographer Sachi Cunningham explain how pain can transform into art. She says:
“From my perspective as a water photographer, I’ve seen that many big-wave surfers are drawn to the sport because they have trauma they’re working through by doing what they do. Immersing yourself in big waves is a practice in survival — of being comfortable with and vulnerable to chaos, and making beauty out of that chaos by making it your own. I’ve survived my mom’s death from cancer, my own cancer, and two hospitalizations from bipolar disorder that surfaced in between.”
Similarly, Jordan Turpin, who suffered through a wildly traumatic childhood, has become a rising social media star and motivational speaker. And Robin Arzón, a Peloton instructor, has used exercise as a way to cope with a tragic incident that involved her being held hostage at gunpoint.
It is not unusual for people who do creative work to catapult themselves into an alternate universe and build other worlds as a form of escapism. But sometimes that escapism can make an unhealthy turn in the form of workaholism. Ask yourself: When am I at my most creative? Does my art bring me genuine joy or am I only doing it to escape reality?
THE PROFILE DOSSIER: On Wednesday, premium members received The Profile Dossier, a comprehensive deep-dive on a prominent individual. It featured Phil Stutz, the therapist offering practical tools to help you navigate life. Read it below.
— The iconic quarterback reflecting on his legacy [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The big bank CEO moonlighting as a D.J.
— The big-wave photographer who always gets the shot
— The ‘crypto pragmatist’
— The most unlikely influencer
— Peloton’s superstar instructor
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The iconic quarterback reflecting on his legacy: 49ers legend Joe Montana won four Super Bowls and retired as the undisputed greatest. But what happens when the greatest ever is forced to watch someone else become the greatest ever? Montana may not care about a ring count, but watching himself get knocked down a spot by Tom Brady fires deep powerful impulses even today. This is a beautiful portrait of a complicated man, and it’s one of the best profiles I’ve read in a while. (ESPN)
"He will always be a guy who sees the glass as half-empty. That's what allowed him to become and to be Joe Montana.”
The big bank CEO moonlighting as a D.J: When David Solomon isn’t busy running Goldman Sachs, he’s mixing electronic dance music for live audiences at tiki bars in the Bahamas, at the big Chicago music festival Lollapalooza, in downtown Manhattan. Now, Solomon was able to remix Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” thanks to Larry Mestel, whose music company is a client of the bank and has financial interests in the oeuvres of music legends like Prince, Bob Marley and Whitney Houston. Could his ‘out-of-work’ activities pose potential conflicts of interest? (The New York Times; reply to this email if you can’t acccess the article)
“Does Goldman Sachs deserve this guy’s undivided attention?”
The big-wave photographer who always gets the shot: Sachi Cunningham is one of the few photographers who shoots surfers at Mavericks while swimming. “You don’t want to get the same shots as everyone else on the boat,” she said. To understand the challenges of the work, imagine swimming around in a cosmic washing machine filled with hazards like icy water, sharks, currents, numerous bodies on 10-foot surfboards jockeying to catch waves that can grow up to 50 feet. As she waits to capture the perfect shot, she’s also mindful of the small window she has to swim down deep and fast enough to escape the hundreds of tons of water falling on her head. (The New York Times; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
"I’ve seen that many big-wave surfers are drawn to the sport because they have trauma they’re working through.”
The ‘crypto pragmatist:’ Alexis Ohanian has invested in 29 startups using cryptocurrency’s underlying blockchain technology and in February 2022 raised $500 million, largely to finance more such companies. Ohanian calls himself a “crypto pragmatist,” supporting U.S. regulation while simultaneously managing the passwords known as private keys for some of his most prized assets, a practice called self-custody and a crucial step for ensuring at least some of his personal holdings remain out of reach of the government–or anybody else. Here’s why he’s betting on NFTs and future social networks. (Forbes; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“The NFTs let us increase the surface area of what we can invest in.”
The most unlikely influencer: It’s an understatement to say that Jordan Turpin had a traumatic childhood. She, along with her 12 siblings, spent nearly all of her days sealed inside a home in Perris, California, that would later be described as a “House of Horrors.” There, Jordan’s parents, David and Louise Turpin, often shackled their children to their beds, starved and beat them, and only allowed them one bath or shower a year. The outside world was only a fantasy to the Turpin children, who lived with the blinds closed during the day. Five years after escaping the house, Turpin, 22, is a rising social media star and aspiring motivational speaker. Here’s how she’s learning to navigate a totally foreign-to-her world. (Elle Magazine)
“Right now, I kind of need a break from my past.”
Peloton’s superstar instructor: Robin Arzón considered herself “allergic to exercise” until a traumatic event during her college years set her on a new course. When she works out, she says, “the catharsis that’s happening is very real.” Here’s how she finds a balance between public branding and privacy, and the long afterlife of trauma. (For more, check out Robin Arzón’s Dossier here.)
“I think that the instructors come with an obsession for creating a revolution of sweat.”
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