David Perell
David Perell
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links

I’m on a mission to use the internet to accelerate the spread of interesting ideas. 

What follows is a collection of my favorite books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. I’ve spent years and years collecting these links and now, I’m excited to share the best of the best with you.

In this collection, I brought together my favorite things on the internet and sprinkled in my own work too. I hope this page will help you spend more time learning and less time searching.

Oh, and if you like ideas like this, you’ll love my weekly Monday Musings newsletter. 


Media and Marketing

Ads Don’t Work that Way — This article will re-shape the way you think about advertising. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen for why brands spend millions on Super Bowl ads and why companies like Nike and Apple are so powerful. Brand advertising works because it creates common knowledge. It’s also an introduction to an under-rated concept: common knowledge. For a fact to be common knowledge among a group, it's not enough for everyone to know it. Everyone must also know that everyone else knows it — and know that they know that they know it... and so on. 

Marshall McLuhan InterviewUnderstanding Media by Marshall McLuhan has shaped my thinking more than any other book. Writing in the 1960s, McLuhan was 50 years ahead of his time. He’s the ultimate internet philosopher. According to one writer: "McLuhan’s theories are subtle and powerful. In fact, it is hard for me to imagine anyone being able to navigate the contemporary environment without at least a good grasp of his principles.” This is the best text-based introduction to Marshall McLuhan’s ideas. I also recommend his interviews on YouTube. 

Rory Sutherland — Rory Sutherland is a rare intellectual whose ideas are better consumed in video than in print. Combining economics, psychology and technology, Sutherland discusses how we can improve the human experience by changing our environment. With wit and humor, Sutherland will open your eyes to the power of behavioral economics and the quirks of human decision making. If you prefer to read, I recommend this article.

Understanding the Blue Church — An exploration of how shifts in media are changing the kinds of narratives that flow through society. For the entire post World War II era, narratives were controlled by the mass media. Now that’s changing. Inspired by the work of Marshall McLuhan, the author proposes terms to help us navigate the 21st century media landscape.


Culture and Society

Gardens Need Walls: On Boundaries, Ritual, and Beauty — Walls are everywhere in nature. In complex systems, boundaries are everywhere. Ancestral, well-established solutions to basic problems like food and housing also solve higher-level problems like the need for social cohesion. New technologies tend to solve basic problems, but not higher-level ones. 

Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition — It is no coincidence that the bible story begins in The Garden of Eden. Gardens are a metaphor for life. They balance balance of order and chaos, life and death, nurture and nature.

Definite Optimism as Human Capital — We can nurture optimism by developing a greater appreciation for industry and reaching for higher economic growth. Pushing forward the technological frontier isn’t somebody else’s problem. It’s our responsibility. 

The Big Here and the Long Now — Brian Eno is the ultimate polymath. Part musician, part intellectual, Eno teamed up with Stewart Brand to found the Long Now Foundation and change how humans think about time. The Long Now is the recognition that the precise moment you're in grows out of the past and is a seed for the future. The longer your sense of Now, the more past and future it includes. I also recommend Eno’s interviews.

Peter Zeihan on the Future of Geopolitics — Peter Zeihan shares a narrative-defying perspective on the future of the world. A geopolitical strategist, Zeihan weaves insights about demographics, security and global energy into a charming and humorous talk, which is as fun as it is interesting.

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System — Most books are extended articles. This article is a shortened book. It’s jam-packed with powerful information. It’s the best introduction to systems I’ve ever seen. Systems are everywhere, and if you want to change them, the author recommends 12 places to intervene, and highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each one.


Thoughts and Ideas

Naval Ravikant Interviews Nassim Taleb — I’ve learned more from Nassim Taleb than just about anybody. His concepts are simple and timeless. Taleb draws from finance, philosophy, and statistics and wraps them together into his own, unique worldview. This interview is one of the best summaries I’ve seen of Taleb’s ideas. If you prefer to read about Nassim Taleb, I recommend this article and this article.

Reinventing Explanation — We forget how tools shape our thought. This essay explores how new media transforms thought and improves our understanding of the world. Through media, we can think the unthinkable. Consider a subway map. It’s a brilliant invention precisely because it distorts reality, but buy distorting reality, maps that aren’t drawn to scale influence property values, business decisions, transportation flows and transportation flows.


The Internet

Welcome to Air Space — From bars, to coffee shops, to startup offices, the internet is transforming the real-world. In this essay, Kyle Chayka asks: “is the contemporary city like the contemporary airport — all the same?” The essay is cynical, yet thought-provoking. Chayka argues that the internet has created a soul-dissipating uniformity and a globalized sameness-as-a-service. By disconnecting from its geography and making everything as average as possible, AirSpace is the antithesis of travel.

The Algorithmic Trap — Algorithms trick us into thinking we’re getting real and authentic experiences, when in fact, we’re getting the opposite. Algorithms are great at giving you something you like, but terrible at giving you something you love. Worse, by promoting familiarity, algorithms punish culture. The more I travel, the less I depend on algorithms. Especially in cities, I find myself shifting adding friction back to my travel experience — shifting away from digital recommendations and back towards human ones. 

Understanding Abundance and Emergent Layers— These four-part series are devoted to a single question: What happens when friction goes away? As a general rule, technology makes scarce things abundant. But a new scarcity always emerges. By focusing on industry structures and competitive behavior at large, this series outlines the shift from scarcity to abundance to scarcity.


work and Productivity

You and Your Research — This is a long essay by Richard Hamming, a Bell Labs computer pioneer. He says that knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity — it is very much like compound interest.

How I Stay Productive — Nat Eliason is a good friend and one of the most productive people I know. In this article, he lays out his system for productivity with detail and diligence. I guarantee you’ll find something in here to implement. 

Growth Without Goals — Most productivity advice focuses on the importance of goals. Goals, though, can be constraining. This article offers an alternative. In a world where maximizing serendipity is increasingly important, rigid goals can blind us to unexpected opportunities. Rather than focusing on goals, we can build a set of daily practices and strive for continual, habitual practices instead of achievement-based success.


Writing

Robert Caro’s Writing Secrets — Robert Caro is the world’s best biographer because he unlocks the electricity of sight. Most biographers give you fact after fact. Caro gives you image. Facts alone aren’t enough. They’re too black-and-white. Readers yearn for images and anecdotes that make the information pop. For facts to stick in the reader’s mind, they must be enriched by vibrant images and colorful stories.


History

How All This Happened — A short economic history of America since World War II. Things were very uncertain, then they were very good, then pretty bad, then really good, then really bad, and now here we are. Morgan Housel outlines a narrative that links all the events together. 


Leadership and management

Jason Garrett speaks about Jason Witten — The first time I watched this video, it moved me to tears. In four minutes, Garrett highlights the beauty of football, teamwork, and leadership.

How Steve Kerr Leads Stephen Curry — This is leadership at its finest. In this short video, Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, speaks to Stephen Curry, his star player. With each word, he dishes respect and inspires confidence. If you’re interested in Steve Kerr, he has a fascinating backstory.

Build a Team That Ships — Keep the team small. All doers, not talkers. Absolutely no middle managers, People choose what to work on. No tasks longer than one week. One person per project. If they can’t ship, release them. It’s not perfect. But we ship. 

Great Founder Theory — Samo Burja is one of the smartest people you’ve never heard of. His ideas are as exceptional as they are unknown. He’s been researching the causes of societal decay and flourishing. Known for his Great Founder Theory, Samo says that as the landscape of founders and institutions changes, so does the landscape of society. If you’re looking for a lighter introduction, I recommend this Medium post or this talk.


Investing

Just Keep Buying — Investing is like a snowball rolling down a hill. Just keep buying and watch that ball grow. When you sell out, you’re selling out future wealth. Ride the highs, whether the lows, and hold onto your assets as you acquire more. Just keep buying. 

The Freakishly Strong Base — Warren Buffett’s fortune isn’t due to just being a good investor, but being a good investor since he was literally a child. $80.7 billion of Warren Buffett’s $81 billion net worth was accumulated after his 50th birthday. Seventy-eight billion of the $81 billion came after he qualified for Social Security, in his mid-60s. Start investing as young as you can. Encourage young people to do the same. Build a reputation through small, consistent acts. That’s where everything huge begins. 


Art and architecture

Artist and the Machine — A history of the interplay between human tools and human thought. Beginning with 19th century realism, Michael Nielsen explores the history of art and perception. Nielsen demonstrates how, as we create new tools and probe deeper into nature, we discover new aesthetics and new forms of beauty.


Meditation

Why I Meditate — Meditation pushes perception into the dark, pre-linguistic woods of consciousness. The stream of consciousness is not a ceaseless flow of words. Meditation is discipline in non-verbal perception. Where words fail, meditation carries the torch. 


Law and Government

Antonin Scalia on American Exceptionalism — Scalia’s opening remarks on the Role of Judges under the U.S Constitution. In his remarks, Scalia discusses the importance of grid lock and distributed power in government.