The Profile's 2023 Year in Review
Here is 2023 through the eyes of The Profile.
Man, what a year.
Even though all of this happened, I still reached a point where I felt kind of … aimless. So I asked myself: When do I feel most energized? Most like myself? It’s when I’m interviewing a person I find interesting.
It’s that simple … so why wasn’t I doing it?
I realized I had become a curator, which is … far from an interviewer. So rather than hiding behind the smokescreen of curation, I decided to pivot The Profile toward more original interviews.
To prevent this feeling of aimlessness again, my motto for the new year is: “Do one hard thing in 2024.”
As Jesse Itzler said in a recent profile, take on one daunting challenge per year that forces growth. The examples he offers include, “skydiving to conquer your fear of heights, completing a triathlon, or repairing a relationship with an estranged parent.”
In a Joe Rogan podcast, Itzler says: “You do something so hard one time a year that it has an impact on you the other 364 days. I can look back since 2008 … I’ve had moments like that every year.”
For me, that daunting challenge will be to run a half marathon after barely exercising during nine months of pregnancy. (Who is unhinged enough to sign up for a half marathon with a two-week baby and a wild toddler? Hi, it’s me!)
So I hope that you all take on at least one such challenge this year and you let me know how it goes.
Cheers to an extraordinary 2024! 🥂
Below, I’ve compiled some of the best profiles, interviews, podcasts, and videos that I’ve shared throughout the year. I hope you enjoy.
✨ BEST PROFILES.
The man who thinks he can live forever: Bryan Johnson, 46, is a centi-millionaire tech entrepreneur who has spent most of the last three years in pursuit of a singular goal: don’t die. During that time, he’s spent more than $4 million developing a life-extension system called Blueprint, in which he outsources every decision involving his body to a team of doctors, who use data to develop a strict health regimen to reduce what Johnson calls his “biological age.” That system includes downing 111 pills every day, wearing a baseball cap that shoots red light into his scalp, collecting his own stool samples, and sleeping with a tiny jet pack attached to his penis to monitor his nighttime erections. Can he do what no one has ever done before? (TIME)
The woman helping the world’s most powerful navigate crisis: When the world’s most powerful people are in trouble, they call Risa Heller. She helped Anthony Weiner survive his first scandal. The chef Mario Batali hit up Heller after he was accused of groping women. A Goldman Sachs banker who was arrested on rape charges in the Hamptons brought her in (he was later found not guilty). The list goes on. Right now, Heller is representing Sam Bankman-Fried’s law-professor parents, who have seen their reputations damaged by association with his. “If a story is knotty, I always want to work on it,” she says. A fascinating profile of a fascinating woman. (New York Magazine)
Prince Harry’s ghostwriter: For two years, J.R. Moehringer was the ghostwriter on Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare.” Moehringer is also behind Phil Knight’s wildly popular “Shoe Dog” and Andre Agassi’s “Open.” It’s no surprise he’s the world’s best paid ghostwriter. So if you’re wondering: “What kind of person becomes a ghostwriter, whose work is published under someone else’s name?” This is a captivating profile in which Moehringer explains how his life led him to this very career. (The New Yorker)
The editor on a mission to free an imprisoned reporter: Emma Tucker had just settled into her role as the new editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal when one of the paper’s foreign correspondents was arrested in Russia. Tucker quickly became the public face of Evan Gershkovich’s imprisonment, appearing on television and encouraging Journal reporters to tweet about the situation. She also worked to keep Gershkovich's story in the news and to pressure the Russian government to release him. (New York Magazine)
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)
✨ BEST PROFILE ORIGINAL INTERVIEWS
• Football icon JJ Watt discusses his next chapter — diving into the world of business, making startup investments, fighting complacency, and creating a new identity that isn’t solely tied to football.
• Laura Dekker, the youngest person to sail solo around the world, talks about what prompted her to take on a voyage this challenging, how she navigated (and eventually won) her fight with the Dutch government, and how she plans to use the lessons she learned as a young sailor to parent her own kids.
• Alpine Investors founder Graham Weaver unpacks his unique investment strategy, what daily habits have transformed his life, and how to live an asymmetric life.
• Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich gives a playbook on how to build iconic brands, why ubiquity can breed contempt, and what founders should consider before taking their company public.
• Former U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson gives insights into developing mental resilience, making decisions in times of crisis, and some of the biggest lessons she’s learned after decades in leadership.
• Four-time NBA champion John Salley shares ideas on improving the NBA, stories about playing with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and tips for achieving success in career and health.
• Netflix’s 'Full Swing' executive producer Chad Mumm discusses the inception of “Full Swing,” the LIV Golf controversy, and his creative process for creating hit TV shows.
• ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ Director Martin Webb explains the nuts and bolts of his creative process, interview technique, and the importance of compelling storytelling
✨ BEST PROFILE DOSSIERS
(These are normally only accessible to premium members but I've unlocked them for a limited time. If you want the full archive, become a premium member here.)
• Amaryllis Fox, the ex-CIA agent performing the most clandestine operations
• Hans Zimmer, the film composer using music to manipulate your emotions
• Josh Waitzkin, the man who can master any craft
• Oprah Winfrey, the self-made billionaire who revolutionized media
• Stephen King, the master of suspense
• Anna Wintour, the power broker of the fashion world
✨ BEST PROFILE COLUMNS
• Q&A with Polina: How I Built The Profile: Readers asked me about making mistakes, generating ideas, growing a newsletter, building daily habits, reading memoirs, and more.
• What Happened When I Saw My Book at a Bookstore for the First Time: One of the most monumental moments of my career was also remarkably mundane.
• A love letter to New York City: After two years in Miami, my husband and I decided to move back to the greatest city on earth.
• How Weak Social Ties Can Have a Meaningful Effect on Our Happiness: It turns out that the seemingly trivial daily social encounters can have profound positive changes in your mood.
• Annual Birthday Check-In: 10 Lessons from My 32nd Year of Life: Insights from my 32nd birthday
• The Hellish Curse of First-Time Success: You put your work out into the world. It was a roaring success. Now, you're miserable.
• '4 Lessons I’ve Learned From Being Your Mom:’ A Letter on Parenting From My Own Mom: My mom wrote me a letter about the four big lessons she’s learned in motherhood.
• A Psychic Predicted I Would Leave My Job and Write a Book: The crazy story of how a psychic predicted I would leave my job and write a book.
✨ BEST PODCASTS
Bill Gurley on competitive dynamics, investing, and successful CEOs: Bill Gurley is a GP at Benchmark, a Silicon Valley VC firm, and is considered one of the best dealmakers. This Tim Ferriss episode walks through much of Gurley’s early finance career, offers explanations of many common finance terms, and good book recommendations. A favorite quote from the episode: “If you’re starting a company because you think it’s going to be a good lifestyle, holy shit. You’re in for a rude awakening.”
Charlie Munger on the state of American society: Charlie Munger was the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. In this conversation with Stripe's John Collison, recorded last year, he shares the ingredients for long-term business success, his thoughts on American society writ large, and what makes Berkshire special. (For more, check out my Profile Dossier featuring Charlie Munger here.)
Florence Williams on hacking the science of heartbreak: After discovering her husband was in love with another woman, science writer Florence Williams got divorced and began experimental research to analyze her body’s response to an unprecedented time in her life. Evidence of higher inflammation and fewer virus-fighting cells confirmed that heartbreak isn’t just all in our heads. In this conversation, Williams shares how she channeled her heightened emotions to develop a deeper sensory awareness of the world and move on, even without closure.
✨ BEST VIDEOS
Charles Schwab on rebounding from entrepreneurial roadblocks: Dyslexia, multiple stock market crashes, and online trading were just a few of the numerous adversities encountered by Charles Schwab. This short documentary explores the financial pioneer’s journey to the top, leading not by what happened to him, but instead by what choices he made. When others may have given up, Schwab remained steadfast. His creative responses to misfortune and innovative thinking remain inspirational beyond the financial world.
Steven Pressfield on defeating the resistance: Steven Pressfield wrote for 27 years before he published his first novel at age 52. During that time, he worked 21 different jobs in 11 different states. Though he had a passion for writing, he never pursued it because of what he calls an inner “resistance.” He describes this “resistance” as a form of self-sabotage and “a negative force that keeps you from fulfilling your dreams.” In short, he defines it as “the enemy within.” This interview is a masterclass on how to defeat it. (For more, check out my Profile Dossier featuring Steven Pressfield here.)
Joe Rogan on handling criticism: As much as we'd like nothing but positive comments on our work, creators are all too aware of the possibility of destructive criticism—which can be a lot to handle. Joe Rogan who's no stranger to receiving critical remarks shares his tactics for dealing with internet vitriol. "You're not supposed to be taking in the opinion of the world," he says. "You're supposed to be taking in the opinion of small groups of people that you encounter so that you get an understanding of how you make them feel."