March 27, 2017


Yo watup,

Someone asked me this past week what was the biggest motivator for me to start a company, and I told him it was fear. 

That's true, if still somewhat self-deprecating. When I helped launch the small publishing company that employes a couple dozen people today, all of the moves included fear. I was genuinely terrified that I was failing, that I would continue to fail and I would be a failure. 

Fear is a powerful force for inaction. Hope is better to inspire action. (Hugely important concept there, by the way)

That is somewhat different when it's your own fear, when you have control of it. Over the last eight or nine years, I have found a way to (mostly) bottle and throttle the fear that might otherwise consume or cause inaction. It might be something I do well: take the ugly emotions I have in me and try to do something.

Back in 2011, I told a story at a Story Shuffle (yes, my weekly podcast of the Story Shuffle is still going so you should subscribe and listen!) about using jealousy, a brutal and petty emotion I'm regularly consumed, to do something positive. It's often something similar with fear, a feeling I still often have. Because let me be clear: I still fight these ugly emotions daily, they're consuming, but I've found ways to win.

Over time, the emotion has gotten somewhat more complicated, like my own recipe to avoid inaction. Yes, it's fear, but I often mix it with guilt and stress. And where that could paralyze me, I take another step and balance it with hope. Like those early days of my company, I still might wake up in the middle of the night in fear. I might be enjoying a relaxing Sunday or want to sneak out of the office early and be struck with that paralysis stew made of fear and guilt and stress. But I turn those emotions around and use them as fuel, they're what keeps me moving. Then I take a moment to remember life is no journey just a complicated dance, and give myself some hope in that I will find a way to make something right. (Oh and I do find time for myself, or at least I'm working on it).

I sometimes send out a little compliment to a friend or colleague -- a message or comment or email -- and that buoys me. Then I remember tomorrow the sun will rise. And it does. Do you have your own strategies?

Now the links.


Prisons are particularly nasty places for deaf inmates. I'm very proud of the work did, led by our editor and my colleague Julie Zeglen, on this report on how one group of people are falling through the cracks of large-scale incarceration systems. There's some focus on Philadelphia and Pennsylvania but it is very much a national story. Read it.

"Most popular unrest in history failed to equalise at all" -- According to this historical survey shared in the Economist, the only consistent method for reducing income inequality is a major catastrophe, either natural or man-made, not political reform.

“No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.” George Saunders paraphrases Einstein to help characterize great creative writing.

Try a 'surprisingly popular' vote to suss out expertise. The best question to figure out if someone know what they're talking about is to ask her: what would most people guess the answer is? Read Nature here.

"In 1957, 97 percent of men in America ages 25 to 54 were either working or looking for work. Today, only 89 percent are." As the Atlantic reports, the negative trends of men, particularly working class and white, might be at least as much to do with health as with the economy and automization. 

Related: As Ezra Klein says "America can be OK while a lot of Americans are not OK." 

"The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time." As the Harvard Business Review shared, some great thinkers think you need to go quiet. I've wrestled with that some and have added my own version of that in the last year, in particular.

What if we are unable to understand artificial intelligence? Wired had an interesting piece on bots developing their own language.

What it's like to write a novel. This visualization from the Guardian is interesting to explain the ups and downs of putting together a 50,000 word narrative with depth and breadth.

Hear from a lexicographer. I loved this profile of a dictionary writer. Watch the video.

Look at some rough history on your surname. This is a fun site that has some aggregated information on the history of last names. My last name is "rare" on a global scale, just the 45,210th most common

"In the general public, about 10 percent of people are left-handed. In Major League Baseball, about 25 percent of players are lefties." As Live Science notes, some of it is purely angles: it's rarer and therefore harder for most batters.

And now a person a love.
Person: Jess Estepa
Geography: DC
Interests: journalism, future of news

I met Jess (@jmestepa) through this weird informal super group of geeky college newspaper editors from around the country who started talking to each other online as undergraduates -- even though she was in Las Vegas and I was in Philadelphia. We'd see each other from time to time at various journalism conferences and national future of news events and always she was among the warmest, kindest, most sincere people I met. I felt deeply connected to her, even though we had big distances between us and never spent lots of consecutive time together. Even when she was back on the East Coast in a city I spend time in, DC, working for big brands like USA Today and National Geographic, I haven't had the time with her that I want. But last fall, we spent lots of time at the national Online News Association conference (us pictured in the Denver Press Club above) and then she came to Philadelphia for our Barcamp News Innovation event and we had a whole weekend together. What I can tell you is she is one of the most passionate, fun and energetic newsroom personalities I know. She care deeply about journalism and friends and fun, and she's made me think about topics that mean a lot to both of us.


Maybe this lil newsletter between us could be one way we could de-stress together? I hope it is.

With love,