The Profile: The man cleaning up Facebook & Google’s civil war
Good morning, friends.
Over the weekend, I watched “Minimalism,” a Netflix documentary about the idea that our lives might actually be better with less. Less stuff, fewer possessions, smaller homes. The film hammers on the fact that we live in a time of over-indulgence. “There’s nothing wrong with consumption,” says Minimalists blogger Joshua Fields Millburn. “The problem is compulsory consumption.”
Excess is everywhere. I walk through Times Square every day only to be bombarded with advertisements, flashing signs, and people shoving flyers in my hands. All for crap I don’t need. The worst form of excess is to achieve everything you’ve ever dreamed of — making egregious amounts of money, living in a luxury home, driving an expensive car — and realizing that somehow you’re still not happy and that something is still missing.
Joshua and his partner Ryan Nicodemus embraced minimalism and founded the website The Minimalists because there was a gaping void in their lives, and working 80 hours a week just to buy more stuff didn’t fill it. It only brought more debt, stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, guilt, overwhelm, depression. “Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all,” they write.
After reading so many profiles over the years, the concept of minimalism reminded me of David Goggins, the Navy SEAL-turned-ultra marathoner. Even though he’s achieved wild amounts of success, he still keeps his life simple. He says:
“I don’t live a very glamorous life at all. I live very uncomfortable to a lot of people. It’s not that I’m broke, it’s not that I don’t have the means to do it. What I realized from my foundation growing up is that I had a very soft, soft mind. Now, I’m always sharpening my sword, and how I sharpen my sword is that mentality of ‘my refrigerator is never full.’ I believe that true growth is at scratch. Starting from scratch is true growth. You have to have friction in your life to be able to move forward.
Just something to think about.
PS: If you like documentaries, here’s a comprehensive crowdsourced list of really excellent ones.
On to this week’s stories:
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PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The man cleaning up Facebook: Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, is doing a job he never signed up for. He was hired to build a top-flight A.I. lab, but his role has evolved into one of threat removal and toxic content eliminator. Now, he spends his time time applying A.I. to deleting death threats, videos of suicides, and misinformation. It’s proving hard to do because “bad activity” is often in the eye of the beholder and humans, let alone machines, cannot agree on what that is. “It’s never going to go to zero,” Schroepfer said of the problematic posts.
“What a burden. What a responsibility.”
The gentlemen at the gate: KKR’s Henry Kravis and George Roberts became synonymous with the cut-throat buyout era following the publication of the business world classic, Barbarians at the Gate. KKR popularized the leveraged buyout in the 1970s and 1980s and became the face of Wall Street’s conquest of corporate America. The strategy of “the barbarians” involved a lot of slashing, burning, and cutting. But now, with trillions pouring into private equity, KKR and its peers must learn how to play nice and build up rather than break up.
“The innovator has for enemies all those who did well under the old system, and lukewarm defenders in those who might do well under the new.”
The Nick Saban of meat judging: Recruiting and rivalries. Championships and iconic coaches. Welcome to the world of intercollegiate meat judging, where college students compete in giant coolers to grade animal carcasses, and it's all structured like college football. The coach behind one of the most decorated meat judging teams of all time? A man named Mark Miller whose pep talks include lines like this: “Meat judging is really you against yourself.”
“Your number one opponent is you, because it’s an objective thing that you know all the answers to. It’s a matter of you being able to put those together with the most precision.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
Google’s civil war: Google was purpose-built to amplify employee voices. With its “Don’t be evil” mantra, the tech giant was a central player in creating the rosy optimism of the tech boom. Now, Google finds itself in the awkward position of trying to temper the radical culture that it spent the past 20 years stoking. The so-called techlash has cast a pall over the entire sector, but nowhere has the furor been as loud, as public, and as insistent as it has been at Google.
“Is it leadership or employees? There’s a real battle for the soul of these companies right now.”
The cash-burning utopia: WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is always ready with a pep talk about finding your purpose, doing what you love, and making people feel less alone. He once told a reporter that WeWork’s 11-figure valuation had less to do with its revenue than its “energy and spirituality.” But his beloved co-working behemoth is losing $2 billion a year, and he has to do some financial gymnastics to stop the bleeding. Here’s a fascinating look behind the scenes.
“Part of growing up is getting comfortable with the world, where people do have an opinion that might not be your opinion. It’s good to listen.”
The most likable man in America: Dwayne Johnson is making movie after movie, hosting SNL, doing ads for Apple, working out at 3:30 a.m., and spending time with his family. It’s really, really hard to not like him. But he hasn’t always been smiles and bear hugs. Johnson was arrested multiple times as a teen, failed to get drafted in the NFL, and battled with bouts of depression. In this profile, we learn how his darkest moments drive him forward.
"You gotta keep that shit in the front of your mind. When shit goes bad or sideways, when you get booed out of the building, it should form you. It should drive you."