On Performative Speaking, Rarefied Success, Innovation, Language, and Loving What Is

Happy Monday everyone!

We had six new subscribers this week. Hello and welcome!

I’m writing to all 128 of you from Houston, TX where I spent my Thanksgiving with my parents and some of their friends. I’ll be heading back to Austin this afternoon.

It’s the first time I’ve exhaled in months.

After a week of in-class speeches from our students, we finished Cohort 1 of Performative Speaking on Friday, November 20th.

There were tears.
There was transformation.
And every. single. speech. was amazing.

I was, and still am, impressed by the effort, dedication, and commitment of every single one of our students. They showed up to every session, including our Friday night ones, and brought the energy. They showed up with courage and passion and a thirst for learning and development.

Moments like our class last Friday are what I live for. Seeing people step into their potential. Witnessing their transformation. Overcoming their obstacles. Claiming their power.

And doing it all in an amazing community supporting you every step of the way. Each time we called someone’s name, letting them know it was their time, the chat would explode with excitement and support.

”You got this!”
”You’re going to be amazing!”

Everyone, believing in one another, supporting each other, lifting each other up.

Every single one of our students reported improvements in their speaking abilities. It showed during their presentations.

The transformations were palpable and powerful.

It was moving.

Our team gave that course everything were had. We poured our hearts and souls into our students.

And every single one of them reported growth in every area of their speaking.

Here are just a few of the good things people have had to say about Performative Speaking, starting with a chart that maps the growth of one of our students over the length of the 5-week course:

When Robbie and I had our first call, we said we wanted to build the best online course out there. Many of our students have told us it’s the best course they’ve ever taken.

And while it feels good - great, actually - to achieve one of our biggest goals, seeing our students win feels better.

Seeing them win makes it all worth it - the months of uncertainty. Several of our students landed new jobs. Others have launched businesses. Others are starting careers on YouTube. They’re all making moves, helping to make our world a better place.

It’s not just a course.

It’s a movement.

All of the hard work is worth it.

And I’m so excited for it to start again.

Cohort 2 starts January 11th.

Join us.

If you are interested in becoming a better speaker, let’s talk about how we can support you. Reply to this email and we’ll schedule a call.

Our promise: we’ll give it everything we’ve got. We only give our best. My promise: I’ll do everything I can to make sure you achieve your goal (and then some).

Let’s build something amazing.

Here’s what I have for you this week.

🤑 On Rarefied Success

If you haven’t heard of YCombinator, you’ve definitely heard of some of the companies they’ve invested in: AirBnB, DoorDash, Dropbox, Instacart, and Reddit are a small selection of some of their most successful alums.

YCombinator is a startup accelerator that provides seed capital for early-stage startups. They "work with startups on their ideas.”

What’s made YC so special? What has made their success so rarefied?

Many have tried to replicate their success but none have succeeded.


Or perhaps a better question is “Who?”

Former YCombinator President Sam Altman suggests it’s their people:

More specifically, Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston.

Beyond who they are, we can learn from what they did (emphasis mine):

What did they do? They took bets on unknown people and believed in them more than anyone had before. They set strong norms and fought back hard against bad behavior towards YC founders. They trusted their own convictions, were willing to do things their way, and were willing to be disliked by the existing power structures. They focused on the most important things, they worked hard, and they spent a huge amount of time 1:1 with people. They understood the value of community and long-term orientation.

There’s a lot to unpack there but I want to focus on these:

Spending 1:1 time with people and the value of community.

Desirable outcomes are often the product of consistently difficult work.

There is no substitute for 1:1 time nor is there anything as powerful as the energy generated by a dedicated community.

These things are difficult to scale.

This matters.

As Paul Graham himself says:

Do things that don’t scale.

1:1 time cannot be scaled.

It cannot be replicated or outsourced. Community can be scaled but scaling community introduces unique challenges (go ask Facebook).

These are just some of the challenges that come up:

How do you diffuse the energy, ideas, and values of founders? How do you scale the value derived from 1:1 time? How do you ensure the early members of a community continue to show up and be supportive? How do you ensure new members adopt the ethos of the community? What does moderation look like if they do not?

Despite these questions, one thing is clear:

Massive success like YCs is the result of consistently doing the unsexy things.

As one of my favorite bodybuilders-turned-meme Ronnie Coleman used to say:

“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weights.”

While it’s not necessarily true that everybody wants to be a bodybuilder (I know at least a handful of people that don’t…a few of them read this), the logic applies to more than weightlifting.

Many want to be massively successful. We want to emulate the success of our favorite creators, YouTubers, startups, or, for some of us, bodybuilders.

But are you willing to do the heavy lifting? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed at the highest levels?

Are you willing to do the things that don’t scale?

Desirable outcomes are the result of consistently unsexy work.

Do the work.

Read the full article on Sam Altman’s blog.

📚On Innovation

From Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society by John W. Gardner:

Humans are inquisitive, exploring creatures who can’t keep their restless minds inactive even when there is no problem to be solved. They cannot help poking at things, turning ideas over in their minds, trying new combinations, groping new insights.”

This quote is particularly relevant given the current climate:

”The system that is in equilibrium today will be thrown off balance tomorrow. Innovation is continuously needed to cope with such altered circumstances. Today even the most potent innovators are unlikely to be effective unless their work coincides with a crisis or series of crises that put people in a mood to accept innovation….At that point the citizen is ready to support some new solutions, and wise innovators will take advantage of that fact.”

Case in point: the widespread adoption of work-from-home and remote work.

The larger point:

Innovation is good.
Great, actually.

I wish we were more open to, and urgent, about it during periods of comfort.

We'd be better prepared.
We’d be more resilient.
We’d be antifragile.

🗣On Language

Read this thread on why the words we use matter.

It’s a great conversation.

Click on my name below to eavesdrop.

✍️On Loving What Is

Wax Tailor has an amazing song called Que Sera. He samples speeches from old movies, including Doris Day singing Que Sera Sera, and mashes them up.

Here’s one verse he puts together by blending clips from classic movies:

“We need answers from you
What- What did you expect to find?
(What did you expect to find?)
What is going to be our future?
It- It's your responsibility to do something about it!

Well, I, uh...
I have the key in my hand
All I have to find is the lock

Now listen to me, all of you!”

I have a hunch where the lock is.

Click Here to Listen —> Que Sera by Wax Tailor <—Click There to Listen

That’s it for now.

Make it an amazing week.

Until next time,