Before we get going, I’m thrilled to share that my course Career Hyperdrive is finally live on Maven. If you’d like to rapidly accelerate the growth curve of your career, join the party. It will be a collaborative, cohort-based experience. I'm also working on a wicked roster of guests - we're talking alums from Google, SpaceX, Microsoft, Facebook, Tiktok and Discord. Click here to read more about it. I can’t wait for you to join us!Sign me up!
Becoming a Charizard
It's been a crazy journey writing in public for almost two years (albeit with a long break last year). My first few newsletters went out to less than 100 people; friends and people I'd encountered along the way. Today's newsletter will reach 10x the number of inboxes, and be read by 20x in the next few weeks. Walking and writing are two habits that have completely transformed my life, knowledge, and understanding.
But we're overdue for a change. After 22 months of grinding in this digital gym, I think it’s about time this starter pack Pokemon evolved from a Charmander to a Charizard.
So, what next?
I’ve been looking for ways to provide more value and take this platform to the next level. One part of that will be moving beyond 1:X broadcasting and building a collaborative community instead. The second element will be deeper content dives, more informative building blocks, and more tangible resources.
To front-load expectations, we’ll soon be moving to a community-supported model. A lot of our content will still be free and easily accessible, such as this newsletter. However, we’ll be making a lot of compelling additions to make supporting this work worthwhile.
Community and content.
Upgrading both these things will take a sizeable investment, completely retooling our entire tech stack to support new features and developing a roadmap of iterative improvement.
I’d like to reframe our mission, make fresh commitments, and tell you what you can expect from The Knowledge going forward.
And if you keep scrolling I’ll leave you with some fresh thoughts from the past week :)
A content-led model
Becoming a content-led platform will mean building a new platform from scratch. That’s why we’re moving from substack to a new, more permanent home at theknowledge.io. You can read more at theknowledge.io/start.
On our new website, you’ll now find articles breaking down key concepts from psychology, philosophy, business and culture. The newsletter will live alongside that, along with in-depth reviews of all the books and resources we’ve referred to and recommended. We’ll also be moving beyond just text, with video, audio and other content forms on the way. I'm also working on a second, shorter newsletter, which can ship weekly with consistency.
This move will also give me room to write better essays, and to expand on ideas discussed in the newsletter with additional articles and videos without having to throw everything at your inbox. One cheeky feature on the new site that makes me happy is a toggle for light and dark modes, so you can view in the format that suits you. We’ve also enabled a search functionality for you to easily find and discover new content.
If you have feedback or any other ideas on how we can make our content 11/10, let me know!
We’re here to save you from drowning in information. The Knowledge is where you go to figure things out. It’s a curated digest of the world's best ideas, drawing on insights from psychology, philosophy, business and culture.
We explore tools, frameworks and ideas that will help you navigate with clarity and cut through the noise.The Knowledge is your cognitive compass - a trustworthy guide as you navigate life's fast-paced chaos. Join us each week for actionable insights to make sense of what matters most.
Here’s our promise: no clutter, no clickbait, no mind-numbing listicles. We’ll save you hours of sifting and connect the dots so you can learn more and live better.
A community-driven platform
Dozens of you have reached out to me over the last year and a bit with stellar feedback, glowing reviews, and also sparking great conversations. I’d love to open up those conversations to everyone, building a community of curious learners to share gems they encounter.
Here’s what you can expect:
- A community channel for support and sharing
- Exclusive community content and deep dives
- Full access to content archives on theknowledge.io
- Early and discounted access to digital products
- Office hours and AMAs
- Dial-in live to podcast recordings and submit questions for guest Q&As
- Community workshops and events
The above has been informed by the feedback we’ve already received, but I’d love any further thoughts on what we can add to make this community truly world-class. Reply to this email and let me know what you think!
If you’re ready, buckle in, and I’ll see you on the other side!Beam me up!
Travel, and other things
I was travelling again this past week. I left my cold, windy island for the first time this year and spent a week running around the Balkans with little more than a backpack and a camera.
After visiting 5 countries in the last 7 days, I was reminded of a simple yet remarkable truth. The fastest way to update your view of the world is through travel. Physical travel is ideal, but you can replicate similar effects online. You just need to carefully sidestep the algorithmic trap of being driven straight to whatever viewpoints will generate the most 'stickiness' for a social platform.
The magic comes from conversations with strangers. It's such a simple premise. The internet today is supposed to be built on it. But the information you are spoonfed and the conversations you are driven to don't quite match the random serendipity of a chat with a stranger, in a place you've never explored or fully understood.
In North Macedonia, I learned about the less rosy reality for countries striving to join the EU. Macedonia changed its name and went through great domestic upheaval on the back of promises that it would enable them to join the EU. That dream never materialised, and now its citizens feel trapped in political limbo.
I also heard the downside of finally breaking into Europe's elite club. Over here we hear about how great the single market is for immigration and free movement. How fantastic it is that immigrants can come to the UK and enrich our culture. I never really stopped to think of what that means for those left behind. The brain-drain that occurs when everyone who aspires for more can wake up and leave overnight. When external opportunities are thick, internal opportunities grow thin - like water crossing a cell membrane.
When things get better for those most socially mobile, they often get worse for everyone else.
In Croatia, I'm told, this creates even more internal pressure to leave. Not necessarily because you want to, but because everyone else has left already.
A stranger I met echoed many sentiments I feel about Nigeria. The small things change - new buildings, plazas, malls and airports. The big things stay the same. Crony governments, putrid politics, and stagnant infrastructure.
In Kosovo, I learned about Albanian nationalism, and post-war political tensions that have lasted since the fall of the Soviet Union.
I heard stories from immigrants in Bosnia who had tried their hand at building a life everywhere from Afghanistan to America.
In Serbia, I had some of the best Chinese food I've ever tried outside China and made poor conversation with trilingual Mandarin speakers.
Then in Switzerland, I had my views on China updated. I met a man from Tibet in a restaurant. He told me about how China is asserting its dominance in the region, and how it struggles to keep Tibetans, Uighurs, Taiwan and Hong Kong under control. I heard about the activists who get disappeared, and the children who now grow up learning Chinese.
I appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to travel, in a world where movement is so highly regulated.
Another thing I love about travelling is the kindness of strangers. I've been to 44 countries now. Some multiple times. I've had plenty of amazing experiences, but also a few terrible ones. The one constant is a shared love and universal kindness in the company of strangers. When you travel you get to see the best of people. The people I can never forget are the ones who knew nothing about me but went out of their way to help me.
On my most recent trip I got booted off a bus at the Serbian border and needed to hitchhike back into Kosovo. Someone on the bus interpreted the instructions for me and gave me 5 euro to help me on my way. When I got back to Kosovo and failed again to enter Serbia at a different border, a taxi driver spent three hours in a car with me driving me out of Kosovo and back to Macedonia to enter Serbia from there. Even when we got to Presevo, he didn't leave my side until he'd convinced another taxi driver to take me the last 1.5 hours to my destination.
A few years ago I struck up a conversation in Egypt with someone who, like me, was soon heading to Tanzania. He offered me a room in his guest house to save me walking around all day.
On an empty beach in the Seychelles I met some Japanese men who told me where it was safe to swim. We swapped details and reconnected for karaoke in Tokyo.
When I was working in Shanghai and my visa expired (a very long and dark story I'll have to tell at length someday) I ended up in Zhuhai, a small port city, having been robbed and almost kidnapped in Hong Kong. Zero exaggeration - I'd spent a week in a windowless box, emailing old friends asking for money so I could get my visa processed. When I reached Zhuhai, the hotel manager took me into town to find an ATM and bought me dinner before helping me on my way.
One more thing I was thinking this week was how diversity can often be zero-sum. You either get it right or you don't. The messy in-between is just different shades of failure.
Here's a short thread I wrote off the back of a curious scientific study showing the impact of diversity on learning (and why girls in Iran, Jordan, Egypt and Bahrain keep dominating boys in math).
Until next time!