Following the ‘White-hot Fire Inside of You’, How Hard Should I Push Myself?, and More!

Everything we published this week

Hello and happy Sunday!


Following the ‘White-hot Fire Inside of You'

Kieran O’Hare/Superorganizers

Art isn't about inspiration—it's about purpose. That's the perspective of abstract painter Brian Rutenberg, who works out of a New York studio cluttered with discarded paint and heaps of paper. Despite rigid daily rituals, his creative process is anything but orderly. In an interview with Kieran O’Hare, he breaks down his unconventional approach, emphasizing the importance of purpose over inspiration and practicality over preciousness. Rutenberg also discusses being creatively blocked, his system for tracking his work, and how he overcame his fear of making mistakes.

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How Hard Should I Push Myself?

Dan Shipper/Chain of Thought

Dan dives into the science of stress and its impact on our bodies in a review of neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky’s book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Sapolsky explores the dual nature of stress—its vital role in our survival and the detrimental effects of chronic stress on various bodily functions. While occasional stress primes our bodies to face imminent danger, constant anticipation of threats that modern humans experience can lead to chronic stress, damaging our health. To manage stress, Sapolsky suggests coping strategies like increasing your sense of control and predictability, finding outlets for releasing frustration, and seeking support from others. (For more on Sapolsky, see below.)

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Every Software Business Has the Same Playbook

Evan Armstrong/Napkin Math

In the world of software strategy, industry secrets are a myth: founders follow the same well-established playbook. Yet paradoxically, software companies maintain gross margins over 80%. Evan explores this contradiction, arguing that the key to success lies not in the product but in the company's vision and go-to-market strategy. He outlines the playbook that software companies follow and, in an interview with Lattice CEO Jack Altman, examines it in the context of the human resources sector. In order for a software company to win, he advises them to understand the strategic game they’re playing—one driven by execution, belief, or the market.

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The Power of Designing for a Single User

Casey Rosengren/No Small Plans

Sometimes in order to make an impact, you need to scale down—way down. Casey Rosengren explores the influence achieved by designing for a single user. Case in point: Odyssey Works, an experience design collective that meticulously crafts personalized performances for one person at a time. These are so profound that they often trigger significant life changes for the participants. The single-user approach also offers insights in medical research and product development. Casey urges founders and businesses to exercise “the power of one” by ditching broad, thin market research and instead delving deep into the lives of a few individuals to truly understand their needs.

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You Have No Choice But to Read This

Dan Shipper/Chain of Thought

Dan reluctantly takes up the debate over free will in a review of Robert Sapolsky’s latest book, Determined. Sapolsky argues that free will does not exist, and our choices are a result of the physical laws of the universe and our own biology. His logical conclusion is that we are free of moral responsibility for our actions, leading him to suggest a radical reconsideration of our system of ethics and justice. Dan takes us through Sapolsky’s argument, in which he sought free will in various places and came up empty—yet still, Sapolsky urges people to be better toward each other. Frustrated by the contradiction, Dan wraps up the review with what he’d hoped the book would say.

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That's all for this week!

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