The Profile: The dealmaker who didn't do his diligence & the biotech giant taking on HIV
Why are writers the loneliest artists?
Good morning, friends!
At its essence, writing is a lonely craft.
There are no teammates, no live audience, no applause at the end. The magic often happens in a quiet room where you're able to translate your thoughts onto a blank canvas.
Ernest Hemingway revolutionized a modern style of writing, and he published seven novels, six short-story collections, and two nonfiction works. In 1929, Hemingway's novel, A Farewell to Arms, spent weeks at the top of best-seller lists. At just 30 years old, he was the most famous writer in the United States.
In October 1954, Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his mastery of the art of narrative."
In his acceptance speech, he said:
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
His remarks are impeccable. He simultaneously insults the people who gave him the prize while alluding to the idea that he doesn't need recognition or admiration from his peers in order to be a great writer. He ends it with: "I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it."
Hemingway, like many writers, had an obsession with being misunderstood. That's why rather than speaking, he wrote. I was recently talking to my dad, and he said something that struck me as profound.
He said, "You write because you're lonely, and you want people to better understand you. But those who read your work to understand you don't actually know you." It's a perpetual cycle of societal misunderstanding and self-imposed isolation.
After The New Yorker published a profile on Hemingway in 1950, he said: "After the New Yorker piece, I decided that I would never give another interview to anyone on any subject and that I would keep away from all places where I would be likely to be interviewed. If you say nothing, it is difficult for someone to get it wrong."
For many, writing is the ultimate form of expression. Carl Jung once said that introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling. Yet in hopes of explaining one's thoughts and feelings, writers somehow become more isolated from the very people their work is meant to reach.
Author David Foster Wallace explained the paradoxical nature of writing: "There's a strange loneliness, and a desire to have some kind of conversation with people, but not a real great ability to do it in person."
Different people write for different reasons. If you've been with The Profile for a while, you know how much I obsess over nuance, precision, and detail. For me, the actual process of writing feels like a chaotic jigsaw puzzle of ideas that I must organize into place. Why? In hopes of being understood by a reader (you!) I may never meet. It's crazy! But it's also intoxicating.
As I explored the root of this, I found that writers I've studied have one thing in common: They write because they're paranoid about being misunderstood. It's about the innate satisfaction they experience when they adequately translate their inner world into writing that makes total strangers feel what they feel and see what they see.
The life of a writer is a paradox: It’s a selfish act done for the enjoyment of others. While it’s beautiful, it’s also remarkably lonely.
"You must be prepared to work always without applause," Hemingway said. "When you are excited about something is when the first draft is done. But no one can see it until you have gone over it again and again until you have communicated the emotion, the sights, and the sounds to the reader, and by the time you have completed this, the words, sometimes, will not make sense to you as you read them, so many times have you re-read them."
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— The Spotify lawyer waging a war on Apple
— The Olympian finding grace under pressure
— The dealmaker who didn't do his due diligence
— The celebrity embracing isolation
— The king of anxious comedy
— The biotech giant taking on HIV [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The ride-sharing giant under fire
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The Spotify lawyer waging a war on Apple: Horacio Gutierrez made his name in U.S. corporate law two decades ago defending Microsoft against charges of anticompetitive behavior. As Spotify's chief legal officer, Gutierrez has now switched sides. For the past five years, he’s led Spotify’s campaign against Apple, one of a series of antitrust actions with the potential to make an even greater impact than the Microsoft litigation. (Bloomberg)
“It’s a snowball Spotify got rolling.”
The Olympian finding grace under pressure: The world wants everything from Simone Biles, and she keeps on giving it. She pulls off some of the most difficult skills in gymnastics better than any of her competitors, then adds unimaginable ones. At 24, the most powerful gymnast in history has defied expectations to become even stronger—after surviving abuse, enduring a family ordeal, and overcoming her own doubts. This is the best, most in-depth, profile I've read on Biles so far. (WSJ; reply to this email if you can't access the article)
"At the end of the day, I can say I’ve done it all, and more.”
The dealmaker who didn't do his due diligence: In June 2020, David Hamamoto, a former Goldman Sachs executive, was searching for a business to take public through a merger with his shell company. He had raised $250 million and spent more than a year looking at over 100 potential targets. Nine months in, bankers from Goldman gave him an enticing pitch about Lordstown Motors, the fledgling electric truck maker. What followed was a swift merger, then a debacle that put two of the biggest forces shaping the financial world on a collision course. (The New York Times)
“Give Hamamoto props for checking out the technology, but not checking out the jockey of the horse is an astonishing due-diligence failure.”
The celebrity embracing isolation: Unlike many of us, Hailey Bieber has actually enjoyed wearing a mask for months on end. "One thing I do like is that the paparazzi can’t see your face," she says. "I’m a young woman, and it’s very weird having all these grown men following you around all the time." Although she's been famous forever and her marriage to Justin Bieber has been very much public, she's still not used to the non-stop surveillance that comes with fame. In this profile, she opens up about what it's like growing up in — and getting married in — the public eye. (Elle Magazine)
“In the beginning of our marriage, I just wanted to hide."
The king of anxious comedy: Tim Robinson is a comedic veteran who believes humans have an innate desire to avoid embarrassment. His comedy is driven by characters squirming in awkward situations before doing whatever it takes to get out of them. And in order to be an effective comedian, Robinson knows he needs to remain hyper-attuned to his neuroses. Luckily, there are plenty of them. Here's what he's worried about next. (GQ)
“We find ourselves fascinated with people digging themselves in holes to save face on something small that ended up making themselves look stupider.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The biotech giant taking on HIV: A year ago, Moderna was an unprofitable company with no marketed products and a promising but totally unproven technology. None of its experimental drugs and vaccines had ever completed a large-scale trial. This year, Moderna could deliver 1 billion doses of its COVID shot and bring in $19 billion in revenue. Now, the company is planning to become a dominant vaccine maker, developing shots for emerging viruses such as Nipah and Zika, as well as better-known, hard-to-target pathogens such as HIV. Will it succeed? (Bloomberg, reply to this email if you can't access this story)
“We are going to totally disrupt the vaccine market."
The ride-sharing giant under fire: On June 30, the world’s largest ride-hailing platform Didi Global began trading on the NYSE. On the second day, Didi was valued at $80 billion. But the fanfare was short-lived. Beijing, taken by surprise by the IPO, struck back. It put Didi under cybersecurity review and banned it from accepting new users. Over the next few days, it told app stores to stop offering Didi’s app. Didi now faces a double whammy: regulatory action at home and blowback from U.S. and global investors who wonder how the company could have gone ahead with a listing while under a regulatory cloud. (WSJ; reply to this email if you can't access this story)
“It takes decades to build up trust and one scandal to break it."
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AUDIO TO HEAR.
Marc Andreessen on creating meaningful change: After a year of tumult and chaos, what does the future look like? In this wide-ranging podcast, A16Z co-founder Marc Andreessen shares his thoughts about the disruption we're living through at this very moment. "COVID was a system shock," he says. "We have this really unusual opportunity to think from first principles about how we think things should work and how we ultimately want to live." This is a must-listen. (Link available to premium members.)
Annie Duke on taking calculated risks: Look at your life right now and ask yourself: Am I taking smart risks or am I just playing it safe? You might think that by not making decisions, you're just gliding by. But poker player Annie Duke is here to shatter that illusion: "Not making a decision is a decision, it's choosing the status quo," she says. "There's time limits on life. So while you're sitting, waiting until you're absolutely sure that taking a chance or quitting a job or trying something new, while you're waiting to be sure, time is going by," she says. "And there's huge opportunity cost to be able to do that.” (Link available to premium members.)
Jud Brewer on unwinding anxiety: Neuroscientist Jud Brewer believes we have "mental behaviors" that lead us into all sorts of anxious thought patterns. When we're caught up in uncertainty, our anxiety surfaces in all sorts of ways that could materialize as stress eating, procrastination, and even addiction. In this conversation, Brewer defines anxiety, presents the problem, and gives us practical antidotes to practice in our everyday lives. (Link available to premium members.)
VIDEOS TO SEE.
Tim Urban’s thesis on our AI overlords: I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the single best explanation of the future of superintelligence. Tim Urban has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers with his blog Wait But Why, and in this wildly interesting talk, he explains how an all-knowing, all-powerful AI could very well become a reality. I guarantee this one will blow you away. (Link available to premium members.)
Simone Biles on the biggest lessons she's learned: Gymnastics has dominated Simone Biles's entire life. The biggest lesson she's learned from day in and day out is perseverance. "You may have a lot of setbacks, but it's important to never give up on your dreams," she says. In this masterclass, she talks about overcoming fear, doubt, and mental blocks. (Link available to premium members.)