Theories, Time

12/30 - What's Next

Hey, hope you have had a great holiday season. A few days left until 2020!

Enjoy the final newsletter of the year.

One quick personal plug: I am hiring for every role. If you/friends have any interest in engineering, design, or product work…we have lots of exciting opportunities with great compensation, high-impact problems, and exceptional teammates.

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Articles to Read.

My 2019 Year in Review

In short, 2019 was the most rewarding year of my life. It was also the most personally and professionally challenging. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me. Once again, I interacted with hundreds of people who challenged me to become a better person. I learned about kindness, intentionality, and leadership.

Focus was the theme of my year. I said no to most opportunities and concentrated in a single direction. “Les is mor.”

Thank you for an incredible year. “While life is largely a single player game, I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” Thank you to my family and the many old + new friends for an incredible year. Thank you for taking a chance on me.

Three Theories for Why You Have No Time

Technologically, the typical American home of 1900 wasn’t so different from the typical home of 1500. Bereft of modern equipment, it had no electricity. Although some rich families had indoor plumbing, most did not. Family members were responsible for ferrying each drop of water in and out of the house.

The following decades brought a bevy of labor-saving appliances. Air conditioning and modern toilets, for starters. But also refrigerators and freezers, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, and dishwashers.

Each of these innovations could have saved hours of labor. But none of them did. At first, these new machines compensated for the decline in home servants. (They helped cause that decline, as well.) Then housework expanded to fill the available hours. In 1920, full-time housewives spent 51 hours a week on housework, according to Juliet Schor, an economist and the author of The Overworked American. In the 1950s, they worked 52 hours a week. In the 1960s, they worked 53 hours. Half a century of labor-saving technology does not appear to have saved the typical housewife even one minute of labor.

The First Credit Card Ever

Today there are more than 2 billion credit cards being used around the world. On February 9, 1950, there were three.

I wrote the following article on March 12, 1963, that appeared on the front page of the local Winsted Evening Citizen:

This is an obituary. It’s about something that’s always been very near and dear to us. It’s about something people have too much of, others have barely enough of, and some, who love it fondly, seem to get rid of it as soon as they get it. Cash, which was born several thousand years ago, the son of Barter, the adopted child of Trade, died today in Winsted, Connecticut, a small American city on the banks of the Mad River.

The doctors who treated the patient before it died in Winsted came up with the following diagnosis: Why did cash die? It got dirty. It ripped. It faded, and people lost it and had no way to claim it if somebody else found it. When you had some of it, somebody was always trying to borrow some from you. When you used it, you had to stop and count it and examine it, and so did the person you gave it to. Sometimes it was too big for a cab ride and too small for dinner. It was easily gambled away and carried some ten-odd million germs per bill. It was absolutely irreplaceable when accidentally dropped into the family incinerator and was something you had to worry about having too much of when walking down a dark street and too little walking into an expensive store.

Cash will be missed. People got used to it, but cash was replaced in Winsted today and may eventually be replaced everywhere by something else people have become used to — the credit card.

Why I Carry Plastic Straws

California is obnoxious about recycling. Every workplace has approximately 67 trash bins to choose from, so finishing lunch also requires playing a game of real-world Tetris to “properly” dispose of your food. It’s a pain in the ass, but whatever.

Recycling per se isn’t bad. The sin with recycling is 1) fooling ourselves in to thinking we’re actually being helpful, and 2) virtue signaling to others that if they don’t do the same they’re less than.

What would actually help is making materials that are both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the status quo. Creating things that make people less environmentally impactful without forcing behavioral change on them.

The plastic straw ban is my favorite example of this nonsense.

But I can’t let San Francisco win this one. They have so many god awful policies that impact me that I can do very little about. This one I can take back for 8 bucks on Amazon and simultaneously turn in to a party trick. SF can make me pay $3,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment but by God it will not make me eat a paper straw to consume my beverage.

What's Amazon's market share? 35% or 5%?

Amazon is a big company, but what does that mean? How big is ‘big’? What does ‘dominant’ or ‘scale’ or ‘huge’ mean when US retail is $6 trillion a year?

Running the numbers, Amazon has about 35% of US ecommerce. But, it competes with physical retailers as well - it competes with Macy’s, Walmart and Barnes & Noble. On that basis, Amazon’s real market share of its real target market is closer to 6% (it’s 2/3 the size of Walmart).

Regulators pick and choose market definitions depending on their objective, and this will probably happen to Amazon - it’s definitely dominant in books and definitely not in cars. But if we’re going to worry about the scale of the Amazon machine, which scale are we talking about? That’s a political question as much as it’s an economic one.


The Spirit of St. Louis. In 1927, Donald Hall and Charles Lindbergh designed and built Spirit in 60 days. "To determine the amount of fuel the plane would need, Lindbergh and Hall drove to the San Diego Public Library at 820 E St. Using a globe and a piece of string, Lindbergh estimated the distance from New York to Paris. It came out to 3,600 statute miles, which Hall calculated would require 400 gallons of gas." Source: Ryan Airlines gave Lindbergh wings.

The Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was built in 2 years and 2 months; that is, in 793 days. When completed in 1889, it became the tallest building in the world, a record it held for more than 40 years. It cost about $40 million in 2019 dollars. Source: Eiffel's Tower.

Apollo 8. On August 9 1968, NASA decided that Apollo 8 should go to the moon. It launched on December 21 1968, 134 days later. Source: Apollo Spacecraft Chronology.

BankAmericard. Dee Hock was given 90 days to launch the BankAmericard card (which became the Visa card), starting from scratch. He did. In that period, he signed up more than 100,000 customers. Source: Electronic Value Exchange.

The Empire State Building. Construction was started and finished in 410 days. Source: Empire State Building.

The New Payday Lender Looks a Lot Like the Old Payday Lender

A sign with the logos of various credit-card companies

Apps promising to “advance” a user’s wages say they aren’t payday lenders. So what are they?

Jonathan Raines needed money. An app promised to help. He searched online for an alternative to traditional payday lenders and came across Earnin, which offered him $100 on the spot, to be deducted from his bank account on payday.

Earnin didn’t charge Raines a fee, but asked that he “tip” a few dollars on each loan, with no penalty if he chose not to. It seemed simple. But nine months later, what was originally a stopgap measure has become a crutch.

“You borrow $100, tip $9, and repeat,” Raines, a highway-maintenance worker in Missouri, told me. “Well, then you do that for a bit and they raise the limit, which you probably borrow, and now you are in a cycle of get paid and borrow, get paid and borrow.” Raines said he now borrows about $400 each pay cycle.

Two days before a recent paycheck, Raines told me, the app notified him that his maximum borrowing amount would be $100 less than he was used to.“So now the money you were depending on, that they took from you last paycheck, you don’t have access to,” Raines said. “They get you hooked and you keep coming back for more.”

More to Check Out: 
Flushing money down the toilet
- Working for a startup makes less sense
- Successful One Person Online Businesses
- We’ve just had the best decade in human history. Seriously
One day I will be a CEO


Cool companies:

Interesting people:

Books I read:

  • King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone

My bookshelf

My Update:

  • Spent the past week in NY. Will be here until Saturday. Working and having fun.

  • I am hiring for all kinds of roles. Reach out if you/friends are interested.

  • How can I make this newsletter better? What parts do you like/don’t like?

If you enjoy the newsletter, you can Venmo me a tip: @jordangonen or on the web here. Really appreciate the support! - Jordan