The Profile: The celebrity who walked across America & the company eavesdropping on your secrets
It’s the profile everyone’s talking about.
David Wisnia and Helen Spitzer were young lovers caught in a circumstance of profound horror and pain. They were Jewish inmates in Auschwitz who fell in love and made a promise to each other that they would meet at a community center in Warsaw once the war was over.
She chose to keep her promise. He chose to pursue a life in America. It’s a story about a promise broken, a sacrifice made, and a life together never lived. It’s that last one, though, that really tugs at the heartstrings.
The duo reunited 72 years later for the first time. Lying in a hospital bed, Helen looks at David and says, “I was waiting for you.” She had followed the plan, but he never came. She had loved him, she told him. He had loved her, too, he said.
It’s hard not to wonder what would’ve happened if David had followed through or if they had found each other earlier or if they had never separated in the first place. But they went on to marry other people and live vastly different lives. Still, the “what ifs” and the “what could’ve beens” remained.
These have been dubbed “sliding door” moments, after the Gwyneth Paltrow movie where her two lives play out in parallel after she makes (or misses) her train. In one version, she catches the train, gets home early, and finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman. In the other, she misses it and arrives after the woman has left. In other words, life is full of infinite possibilities and one tiny, stupid event — like missing our train — has the power to steer us into a life of great happiness or great misery.
I recently found out that my grandfather had a “sliding door” moment no one knew about until my dad gave me a compilation of his poems. (He was an architect, but of course, somehow, still found time to write poetry.) The subjects of his poems were pretty heavy — grieving a friend’s death, life under communism, and his time in the military.
And then, bam, right in the middle of all that, he hits you with a poem dedicated to a silly moment at the beach when he didn’t have the courage to talk to a girl. It reads much better in Bulgarian, but here’s a rough translation:
It was evening by the blue sea. The moon floated between the clouds as the light enveloped a child playing idly nearby.
I stepped aside with my gaze transfixed. Waves whispered down low, while she — absolutely lovely — stood above it all, radiating pure happiness.
I began walking bravely, but bravery I did not have — I stopped! There was no strength left in me. By the time my mind caught up to my heart, I saw her blush and walk away smiling.
I stood there for a long time, certain that even the stars laughed at me that night. And when I returned home, I, too, had a hearty laugh about it all.
My poetry-writing grandfather ^^
In one scenario, my grandfather talks to the girl, they hit it off, and they have one big poetry-writing, beach-going family. But the second scenario — in which he meets my grandmother years later — is much more appealing (to me). Stories like these are great reminders that the seemingly inconsequential moments can have a huge impact on our future selves.
The show “How I Met Your Mother” plays with the idea of sliding door moments a lot. I’ll leave you with this scene in which Ted Mosby realizes that there are a lot of little reasons why the big things happen.
This week’s profiles are all so so good that it was hard to choose a favorite:
— The celebrity who walked across America [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The lovers of Auschwitz
— The kitesurfing founder who built a $3-billion business
— The woman of the decade
— The actress who refuses to stay in her lane
— The champion who picked a date to die
— Crypto’s crown prince
— The weddings influencer who got divorced
— The tech giant eavesdropping on your secrets
— The race with no finish line
— Nike’s dive into modest swimwear
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PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The celebrity who walked across America: Remember Mike Posner? Yes, Grammy nominee “I took a pill in Ibiza” Mike Posner. As he wrestled with his relationship to fame, Posner decided to do something no one expected him to — walk 2,851 miles across America. During his walk, he learned two lessons: There are no real finish lines, just “checkpoints.” And always include a “no matter what” clause in the contract when you come up with a big goal. This one is very good. (Outside Magazine)
“When people die, it’s just a reminder that you’re gonna die too, dude—you’re next. In the meantime, you should start doing the things that are important to you now. This is it.”
The lovers of Auschwitz: As mentioned above, this profile will take your breath away. It’s about two Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz. It’s a story of young love, promises made and broken, and a lifelong journey of wonder. When David Wisnia reunited with Helen Spitzer 72 years later, he had one question for her: Did she have something to do with the fact that he’d managed to survive in Auschwitz all that time? The answer will shatter you. (The New York Times)
“I had no knowledge of what, when, where. She taught me everything.”
The kitesurfing founder who built a $3-billion business: Melanie Perkins built design platform Canva from a simple online tool into a $3 billion behemoth. This year, the company expects to more than double its revenue to $200 million. It’s one of these rare Silicon Valley stories that you don’t hear too often because well, she’s not in Silicon Valley. Here’s how she built a profitable business in Perth, a city built on mining and petrochemicals. (Forbes)
“It was like, risk: serious damage; reward: start company.”
The woman of the decade: Taylor Swift has been named Billboard’s Woman of the Decade for being one of the most accomplished musical acts of all time. She was just 16 years old when she released her self-titled debut album in 2006. Now, as she turns 30 this month, she finishes the decade in a totally different realm of the music world from where she started. In this Q&A, Swift reflects on her public feuds, her hot-and-cold relationship with social media, and why she wouldn’t change a thing about her career arc. (Billboard)
“I really appreciate my experience, the ups and downs.”
The actress who refuses to stay in her lane: Here’s the ironic thing about being underestimated: You get used to it. It’s happened to you, to me, and to … Reese Witherspoon. "I was so used to being underestimated that when I was somehow accepted, I didn't know how to look at material," she says. "I didn't know how to make decisions and I didn't know what I wanted to say." Here’s how Reese Witherspoon the producer, much like Reese Witherspoon the entrepreneur, was born out of frustration. (Hollywood Reporter)
"When people try to tell you to stay in your lane, don't listen.”
The champion who picked a date to die: Since her teenage years, Marieke Vervoort had been battling a degenerative muscle disease that stole away the use of her legs. After her diagnosis, she seized life with new vigor. Within a few years she won a gold medal at the Paralympics as a wheelchair sprinter. And then, after more than 10 years of uncertainty and pain and joy, she decided to set an appointment to die. This story took three years to report, and it’s masterfully done. (The New York Times)
“I will die in a beautiful way, with the people I want to be with.”
Crypto’s crown prince: Olaf Carlson-Wee wrote his 2012 college thesis on Bitcoin and joined Coinbase as its first employee. He appeared on the cover of Forbes in 2017, which read: “The craziest bubble ever.” He was riding high as his hedge fund Polychain Capital reached $1 billion in assets under management in early 2018. Then everything crashed. (Fortune)
“You have to be investing for a future that is 10 years away,”
The weddings influencer who got divorced: Molly Rosen Guy claims she pioneered “cool wedding” culture through her high-priced bohemian wedding brand in Stone Fox Bride in 2012. Her life looked picture perfect, but the reality was quite different. In 2017, she separated from her husband, but decided not to tell her followers or clients for fear of losing authority as an expert on weddings. What happens to a weddings influencer when the honeymoon is over? (The New York Times)
“There was a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics that I was doing to sort of keep the brand afloat.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The tech giant eavesdropping on your secrets: A temp agency outside Boston offered a vague job: transcribing audio files for Amazon.com. For $12 an hour, “data associates,” listened to snippets of random conversations and jotted down every word on their laptops. Amazon would only say the work was critical to a top-secret speech-recognition product. The clips included recordings of intimate moments inside people’s homes. The things you’d hear? Lonely sounding people confessing intimate secrets, a boy expressing a desire to rape, and men hitting on Alexa. We live in crazy times. (Bloomberg)
“There’s this creeping erosion of privacy that just keeps going and going. People don’t know how to protect themselves.”
The race with no finish line: Here’s how Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra works: runners have one hour to complete a 4.167-mile loop at the race organizer's home. Sounds easy enough. But then they have to do it over and over and over again. Hundreds of miles and a ridiculous amount of pain later, the last competitor still running wins. The creator of the race says, "You'll wonder how someone can inflict so much pain without a weapon.” (Sports Illustrated)
"The things that make it fun are of course seeing people really reaching inside themselves and finding something, and going beyond what they thought they could do."
Nike’s dive into modest swimwear: Muslim women in hijabs have taken Olympic medals in tae kwon do, fencing, and weight lifting. One sport where hijabis are rarely found, however, is swimming. Enter Nike. Last week, the company unveiled its first line of modest swimwear with its Victory suit, but it was not an easy undertaking. This is a fascinating deep dive into the intricate process and the many challenges that Nike’s design team faced in making the perfect swimsuit. (The New Yorker)
“We hope this will be a moment where the world changes and more people are invited to sport.”
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