Check your Pulse #26

scarcity mindset, D2C benchmarks, and culdesac

Welcome to the 26th edition of Check your Pulse, a weekly newsletter where I write and curate the very best content on startups, human-centered work, society, culture, and personal growth. It is read by 3,500+ founders, creators, and other purposeful readers and has been described by readers as ‘a yoga class for the mind’. If you know someone who’d like this sort of thing in their inbox, they can subscribe here.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Erik Torenberg (one of my favorite Twitter follows) shared something a few months ago that I felt compelled to revisit this week:

One of the most important things we have to overcome as a society is our scarcity mindset, the belief that what we want is in limited supply. Thinking on an evolutionary scale, the scarcity mindset had value. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to be extra aware of dangers (lions, poisonous mushrooms, etc) and jealousy helped them compete for the scarce resources of food and shelter.

Fast forward to today, and so many of us working in creative fields continue to work from a place of lack. One possible explanation for this is that wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game.

Consider the following excerpt from this thoughtful guide on how to feel like you have enough:

You’re showing your work, you’re getting out there, and you’ve had some success. Maybe you’ve made some sales and gotten some recognition, but you can’t help feeling that you’re still behind. Everyone else seems to have more — followers, opportunities, time. They seem to have it all figured out. It’s starting to feel like there will never be enough money, connections, or recognition to give you the stability and success you’re looking for as an artist. If this feels familiar, and it’s a common feeling for many creative people, you are experiencing the pangs of scarcity mindset.

In a world full of non zero sum opportunities, the scarcity mindset is becoming increasingly outdated, but how do we get out of it?

Gratitude is a good start. It helps us switch from “this is what I’m missing” to “look at everything I have.”

I re-listened to A.J. Jacobs’ episode on The Tim Ferris podcast this week and it’s full of ideas about cultivating a gratitude practice that will stir your mind, and which I summarize in a new section I’m trying out this week, the 🎙 gist.

Podcasts can meander and sometimes you’ll listen for hours only to get one thought that really sticks. My hope is to free up your time while I take on the task of summarizing the highlights from my favorite podcasts. I’m not sure if I’ll do this every week, in fact it’s unlikely I will but for this week, I hope you enjoy it.

Stay grateful.



“One of the things [Uncle Alex] found objectionable about human beings was that they rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, "If this isn't nice, what is?" So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, "If this isn't nice, what is?”

-Kurt Vonnegut

caught my attention

links to love this week

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this commencement speech by John C. Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, is worth reading. Here’s how I recall the wonderful story that sets the theme for my remarks today: At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, the late Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, the author Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch 22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have . . . Enough.” 🦃

The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius is Paul Graham’s first essay in a long time and is an excellent read. Everyone knows that to do great work you need both natural ability and determination. But there's a third ingredient that's not as well understood: an obsessive interest in a particular topic. 🚍

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Award Speech is one of the best ever speeches on the damage done by social media (and in particular Facebook). Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad you want, even if it’s a lie. And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect. Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’. 💬

A brilliant open letter to Jeff Bezos from the founder of Allbirds who came across a copycat product on Amazon. Products can be copied, but values can’t. 📝

My friend launched Frank One, the first one-touch specialty coffee brewer and the first one that can brew both cold brew and hot coffee with a brand new extraction method. It’s also the first coffee maker built by someone from Colombia. CYP readers can buy a machine and get 10% off using code “PULSE”. Go support him! ☕

Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter wrote a book and I can’t wait to read it. 📚

Don’t let people play with your time

No matter what you think of Tesla’s cybertruck, this is very true. 🔮

I spent two hours this week reconfiguring my iPhone to work for me, not against me using this very practical guide. If you take the time to follow the steps in this article you will be more productive, more focused, and — I’m not joking at all — live longer. 💯

This 1996 quote by Carl Sagan is eerily accurate 👇🏽

venture corner

a roundup of startupy things from around the web

A great thread on what successful D2C companies have in common 👇🏽

Entrepreneurs are eschewing the direct-to-consumer glitz (NYT) for enterprise businesses. This related tweet made me laugh 👇🏽

Everyone wants to be a bank. A bank is the ultimate bundler. That's why every consumer-facing company wants to get into the banking business. Apple may be the best positioned of all to own your wallet — by rejecting an ad-driven business model, they can more authentically claim to keep all data on your device and not target you based on purchases. 💰

Angela Tran of VersionOne VC releases the 3rd “Startup Handbook”, an e-book focused on the stage between post-Seed to pre-Series B. 👍🏼

the🎙 gist

highlights from the best podcast I heard this week

The Tim Ferriss Show – A.J. Jacobs on Strategies to Be Happier Through Gratitude

  • A.J. Jacobs (@AJJacobs) is the author of many books. In this episode, Tim asked him to talk about how to be happier through gratitude.

  • Declare war on the negative bias: Focus on the things that go right instead of the things that go wrong — did the checkout line at the grocery store go quick? Did you avoid red lights on your way to work? If all you did was look for things to appreciate, you would live a spectacular life.

  • Everything is connected - “It takes thousands of people to make any object. It doesn’t take a village to make a cup of coffee, it takes the world.”

  • Remind yourself continuously that you’re part of something bigger and that there are hidden masterpieces all around you. Think about how much engineering, passion, and thought goes into creating a coffee cup lid.

  • Don’t have nostalgia – glorifying the past is a thief of joy.

  • A very helpful three word mantra– “Surgery without anesthesia.” Up until a few decades ago, that’s the way all surgeries were. Just think about how good we have it now, all things considered.

  • Act as if you’re grateful and eventually your mind will catch up. It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.

  • It’s not the glass half full vs. the glass half empty, it’s the fact that we have any water in the glass at all. How f*cking crazy is it, that we can walk to our kitchen, turn the faucet, and have clean water come out.

have you heard of…

Culdesac is creating the first car-free neighborhood built from scratch in the U.S. This is a stunningly ambitious project in its attempt reverse the harms of car-centric development - air pollution, more fatalities than all wars combined, time wasted in traffic, environmental degradation, etc… Working with a leading Arizona developer and the urban planner who created the concept of Missing Middle Housing, Culdesac will build homes for roughly 1,000 residents in a neighborhood featuring over 50% landscaping, public courtyards, and greenery, spaces for shared bikes, scooters, and hourly rentable car-sharing, bookable guest suites, and walkable restaurants, shopping, and grocery stores. It’s a large-scale real estate project by a startup that intelligently partners with developers so that each party is able to do what it does best. And most compellingly, it is an attempt to create an old-school, IRL community by taking advantage of technological trends. I’ll be watching this one!

If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:

My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, and early stage startup investor at Level Ventures and Rokk3r. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

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