Choose Money First

Ikigai is a solid concept, but it’s not realistic. Finding that cross section would take a long-ass time. Try doing the “what you can be paid for” section first, and the rest will take care of itself.

Bikes Shouldn't Have Horns. Neither Should Cars.

A cargo ship captain in heavy fog needs a horn; some schmuck in a Hyundai does not.

The Remained

Who knows what will eventually become of Kolkata’s old Chinatown? But for now, those who remain are keeping their heritage alive.

The Last Chinese Indians of Kolkata

I know a friend who visits McDonald’s in every country he travels to. In doing so, he hopes that some nuance about each place will reveal itself, some nuance that lies in the difference between a McDonald’s that serves nasi lemak burger and a McDonald’s that serves McAloo tikki burger. The differences in the pedestrian, rather than the extraordinary, are more telling, right? I get it. I have a similar ritual: I go to Chinatown.

What I've learned growing a newsletter to 15,000 readers

The best newsletters read like horoscopes, you think they’ve been written specifically for you. This newsletter is ostensibly about freelancing. Except that’s not really what it’s about. It’s actually about shame, guilt, ambition, loss and belonging. Messy emotions that everyone with a human heart can relate to.

Why don't I have a blog?

I don’t have anything interesting to say. Or, more specifically, even if I do have stuff to say, what I don’t have is stuff to add.

How to get 2,000 Substack subscribers in six months

I’d like to emphasize is that I did not have a large online platform to start with. Yet I didn’t have no platform either. I had a middling platform, which was, in retrospect, basically the minimum one necessary.

Writing for outlets isn't worth it anymore

The amount of work it takes to actually get something published vastly outstrips that of writing it. This iron law of freelance writing is indubitable and unchangeable. You don’t just have to write a piece, you also have to pitch it.

Confessions of a Recovering Corpspeaker

I publicly commit to simplifying my language at work. I commit to saying use instead of leverage, to avoid using action as a verb or ask as a noun, and to offer to send a follow-up email rather than to align async.

Primož Roglič and the Power of Second Chances

Just six years after he first learned how to race a bicycle, Primož Roglič would win his first Grand Tour.

Writing an Ordinary Existence

Maybe because all of the worst moments in my life seemed the most ordinary to everyone else, I was utterly unaware of how to make things happen in fiction.

On Writing Better (Three Parts)

If that doesn’t work, and you find yourself staring at a […] empty screen wondering how you will ever gather the words to say what’s on your mind, [here are] a couple of tricks.

Did the Heir to the Red Bull Empire Get Away with Murder?

In 2012, a member of one of Asia’s richest families killed a Bangkok police officer in a hit and run. Seven years later, he’s still free.

How to Sell Good Ideas

[Gladwell] is more concerned that people find his work stimulating. [He] respects science, but isn’t reverent of it, which drives some scientists crazy. But there is an important role for writers who speculate, make unusual connections, and even push things too far from time to time. Non-scientists have something valuable to offer science itself, not least cultural currency; whether the “10,000-hour rule” is right or not, the debates it inspired have deepened our collective understanding of high achievers.

Rules for Writing True Stories

Here are a few personal rules for writing true stories.

How to Write a Book

In writing a book, you’re going to find all sorts of interesting ways to mentally beat yourself up. You’re going to consider new tools and different writing schedules. You’ll discover that inspiration can be encouraged, but never created. You’re going to find constructive ways to procrastinate and your friends are going to stop talking to you because all you talk about is that damned book.

Writing Books is Not A Good Idea

The New York Times caused a stir recently when, in an article about pandemic book sales, it disclosed that “98 percent of the books that publishers released in 2020 sold fewer than 5,000 copies.”

Though this statistic was shocking to many, it is not new information. People don’t read books—and the ones that do aren’t buying them.

Just Too Efficient

There is a point where the price is too high, and we’ve passed it.

Rediscovering the Small Web

Most websites today are built like commercial products by professionals and marketers, optimised to draw the largest audience, generate engagement, and “convert.” But there is also a smaller, less-visible web designed by regular people to simply to share their interests and hobbies with the world. A web that is unpolished, often quirky but often also fun, creative, and interesting.

Why Self-Defense Classes Don't Prevent Sexual Assault

Self-defense training can be a worthwhile venture, but when it comes to rape or sexual assault prevention, it just isn’t an effective one.

No One Will Read Your Book

The unicorns of the publishing industry allow us to dream that maybe, just maybe, our books will make it too.

Gas Station Indian Food

Thousands of restaurants in gas stations and truck stops are owned by immigrants selling the kinds of comfort foods they wish they could find outside their own homes.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.

Six Books We Could and Should All Write

[This isn’t] about novels and plays and poems. And definitely not about great novels and plays and poems. It’s pointless to tell people to write stuff like that. Even the ones who want to can’t. And of course, most people don’t even want to.

[This] is different. It’s books anybody could write.

On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren't

I’d like to offer my services as a sort of has-been-poor guide, to fill you in on what it’s like on the other side of the tracks.

Beef Is Expensive. So Why Are Cattle Ranchers Going Bankrupt?

During the Covid pandemic, Americans went to the supermarket and found something that hadn’t happened for decades — a meat shortage. There was plenty of cattle, but the beef wasn’t getting to the supermarket shelves.

Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web

We’re quietly replacing an open web that connects and empowers with one that restricts and commoditizes people.

How the Blog Broke the Web

Dates didn’t matter all that much. Content lasted longer; there was less of it. Older content remained in view, too, because the dominant metaphor was table of contents rather than diary entry.

A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden

[T]aking a new approach to the way we publish personal knowledge on the web.

Unlocking the Commons

This is a prediction for 2019 and beyond: The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free.

The Story of My Hair Extensions

But here’s the twist: my boyfriend loved me in my cheap extensions. Regardless of how artificial they looked, they still gave a decent first impression, and the straight male mind seems to cling to whatever imprint it originally receives. So I looked way hotter, all the time, and I often wore pigtails because I never knew what the hell else to do with it. Pigtails, we all know, are like a dog whistle for penises.

Why I left Google to join Grab

You can look at Google’s entire portfolio of launches over the past decade, and trace nearly all of them to copying a competitor […]. They are stuck in me-too mode and have been for years. They simply don’t have innovation in their DNA any more. And it’s because their eyes are fixed on their competitors, not their customers.

How The Like Button Ruined the Internet

Is it any coincidence that the race to the bottom in media—toward clickbait headlines, toward the vulgar and prurient and dumb, toward provocative but often exaggerated takes—has accelerated in lock-step with the development of new technologies for measuring engagement?

An Honest Living

What is it like to go from a tenured professorship to an hourly wage driving buses?

In Praise of Not Knowing

Instant accessibility leaves us oddly disappointed, bored, endlessly craving more. I’ve often had the experience of reading a science article that purported to explain some question I’d always wondered about, only to find myself getting distracted as soon as I started reading the explanation.

I Don't Know How to Waste Time on the Internet Anymore

I did not know what to type into the address bar of my browser. I stared at the cursor. Eventually, I typed “nytimes.com” and hit enter. Like a freaking dad. The entire world of the internet, one that used to boast so many ways to waste time, and here I was, reading the news. It was even worse than working.

As Crummy As You Wanna Be

You’re probably not as good as you’d like to be. Herein lies a paradox, though. If you wait until you’re good enough, you’ll never improve.

Three Cups of Fiction

[T]he larger fiction that goes unquestioned is Mortenson’s romanticized portrayal of education as a panacea for all the world’s ills, a silver bullet that in one clean shot can end poverty, terrorism, and the oppression of girls and women around the world.