Ordinary Astronauts

By Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez

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Two friends explore tech, product building, and the psychology of work. Hosted by Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez, co-founders of Every, a writers collective that feeds the minds and hearts of the people who build the internet. We study businesses and we study humans.

Episode Date
Introducing Lex!

This week, Dan and Nathan talk about Lex, the new word processor that Nathan has been working on. It's like Google Docs, but it has an AI baked in that helps you get unstuck, generate title ideas, and more.

Sign up at https://lex.page 

We'll be rolling out beta invites over the coming weeks, to get early access become a paid subscriber to Every! https://every.to/subscribe 

Oct 16, 2022
Interview: Brad DeLong, author of Slouching Towards Utopia

This week we've got something special!

Loyal listeners may recall an episode we recorded a few weeks ago where we discussed Nathan's review of a new bestselling book called Slouching Towards Utopia. If you liked that, you're in luck, because this week we talk to the author himself, Brad DeLong!!

This was a super wide-ranging conversation, which should be fascinating to anyone interested in economic history, progress, and technology. Enjoy!

Oct 09, 2022
Productivity is Emotion Regulation

Three topics:

  1. Productivity is Emotion Regulation. Dan has been tweeting "____ is emotion regulation" a lot lately. What does that mean? It means a lot of the things we do are actually ineffectual, indirect attempts at regulating an emotion. Also, it means doing that thing well is only possible when our emotions are under control. Speaking of which...
  2. The Science of Exposure Therapy. Last week Dan wrote an article about exposure therapy, and we get into the details here. There is more to it, apparently, than the old cliche "face your fears" implies! 
  3. The Infinite Article. Nathan wrote about how AI might be bringing us closer to a world where each of us doesn't just read content recommended to us by machines, but we might actually read content written by machines.
Oct 02, 2022
Interview: Dr. Emily Anhalt on the psychology of entrepreneurship

This week we've got a mind-expanding conversation with Dr. Emily Anhalt. Emily is a psychologist and co-founder of Coa, a gym for your mental health.

She's spent years studying the psychology of entrepreneurs (and is a founder herself) so we spent the episode diving deep into:

- The pros and pitfalls of the entrepreneurial psychology
- What defense mechanisms are and how analysis can help you identify and deal with them
- How bringing more awareness to your own psychology can help you achieve better outcomes in your company and in your life

Sep 25, 2022
Figma! Wow

Three topics:

  1. Figma! It's not every day a company gets bought for $20 billion. Dan shares a story of how he actually met the Figma co-founder and CEO back in the day at an... interesting... retreat. And then we talk about why Figma succeeded, and why Adobe wanted them so bad they were willing to pay 10% of their market cap.
  2. How to find your next thing? Find the right people. We all go through transition periods in our career where we aren't sure what's next. Perhaps instead of focusing on finding the perfect idea, market, role, etc, it's better to focus on finding the right people and being flexible on what comes next.
  3. What is a business? This week on Divinations, Nathan wrote a philosophical-yet-practical essay exploring the nature of businesses. We get to the bottom of it and talk about how understanding the deep economic roots of commerce can actually help you refine your focus. Or maybe it's just interesting :) 
Sep 18, 2022
Is Apple Stuck?

Three topics:

  1. Is Apple Stuck? The Apple event this week was full of sustaining innovations—nothing revolutionary. It feels like radical new products are a thing of the distant past. Why?
  2. Creative Extravagance. Some people say focus is key, that you can't do anything great unless you ruthlessly say no. But what if that's just not true? Dan's latest article makes a case based on nature (and the writing of Annie Dillard) for creative extravagance. Sometimes it's better to just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
  3. Book Review: Slouching Towards Utopia. A new book got published this week that tells a grand narrative about the 20th century, and helps explain why it feels like progress generally is faltering in the past decade or so. It's called "Slouching Towards Utopia" and it's well worth reading. Dan and Nathan discuss, and somehow end up in a debate over the role of the market and what degree of government intervention is most prudent.  
Sep 11, 2022
Are AI image generators ethical?

Three topics:

  1. Are AI image generators ethical? There are three main arguments against: that they were trained on artist’s works without permission, that they could put artists out of work en masse, and that they could be use for abuse and deepfakes. Dan and Nathan dive into the issues and emerge with a better understanding than they had before.
  2. Intelligent Tools. Dan and Nathan discuss the most recent Divinations article, in which Nathan argues that we’re now at a point where we can begin to see how AI will actually work in our lives, and move beyond our naïve expectations. 
  3. When Productivity Tools Make The Problem Worse. In Superorganizers this week Dan wrote about how sometimes the thing we are using our tools for is actually more about regulating our emotions than getting things done. For instance, obsessing over a todo list might be a symptom of anxiety that we will let people down. If we can become aware of this, we ca do other things (like reflection and journaling) that might solve the problem more directly.
Sep 04, 2022
Interview: Michael Mignano on the end of social media and the rise of “recommendation media”

This week we’ve got an interview that blew my mind, a truly mind-expanding conversation with Michael Mignano. Mike co-founded Anchor in 2015 and grew it into the world’s largest podcast hosting platform, it was acquired by Spotify in 2019 and he went on to become Head of Talk at Spotify. Recently he left and has been angel investing and is on a tear writing fantastic essays about the future of content distribution technology.

In this conversation we cover:

  • Why recommendation media—entertaining content from strangers—is replacing social media—content from friends and family.
  • What strategic motivations platforms like Meta have for making this shift
  • How it affects creators
  • Where traditional “social media” type content for friends and family is moving
  • What could happen when AI content generation keeps getting better
  • What role there is in this for Snapchat and Twitter, who are both struggling

This episode goes quite deep on the topic and I learned a ton from it. We’re going to have to have Mike back on the show once some time has passed to check in on these trends and see how it’s going!

To go deeper on these topics, read Mike’s essay published in Every on the End of Social Media: https://every.to/p/the-end-of-social-media?sid=9593

Aug 31, 2022
Controversy! How hard should we work?

Three topics:

  1. Controversy! How hard should we work? This week a startup with a cute soup dumpling logo tweeted a tweet that got them in trouble, about how you have to work hard if you want to work there. We discuss why people didn’t like it, and finally for once and all end the debate about how hard people should work. (Ha!)
  2. Crying CEO gets NYT trend piece! A few episodes ago we talked about the crying CEO meme and why people didn’t like it. This week, the NYT covered it as a broader societal trend, where bosses “are racing to show they are not just empty suits.” What did they get right? What is the story missing? What can you do as a normal human being to avoid the madness? We get to the bottom of it.
  3. The surprisingly tricky art of stopping trying to do things that don’t work. This week Dan wrote an article about how he noticed a pattern in his life, where he would beat himself up for not doing a thing (like inbox zero) and then go right back to trying to accomplish it in the same way as before. This hardly ever works, it’s usually much better to change your approach instead. In this segment we discuss how to actually do that.
Aug 28, 2022
The New Clubhouse

Three topics this week:

  1. The new Clubhouse. It's been a couple years since Clubhouse came out and attracted astronomical hype (which Nathan was a part of) and since then things seem to have died down a bit. But Clubhouse is releasing a new version of the app that seems pretty interesting. Dan and Nathan talk about why we and many others stopped using Clubhouse, what the new version is (Nathan got to use it), and whether we think it'll work.
  2. Arguing to Think. Dan noticed he doesn't know what he thinks unless someone is arguing with him. At first he didn't like that about himself, but now he's learned to harness it. We discuss how to deal with argumentative vs exploratory styles of conversation, and how to develop a strong point of view (which is often rewarded by the universe) without getting blinded by it.
  3. Conquering Fear / OCD with Exposure Therapy. Dan talks about his experience with OCD and how exposure therapy helped him. All of our lives are shaped by subtle fears that are not always easy to see, but we can find them by paying attention to clues (what do we say "no" to a lot? what do we judge?) and often the best way to make progress is by overcoming them.
Aug 21, 2022
The Unreasonable Effectiveness of 1:1 Learning

Four topics this week:

  1. The crying CEO meme. What went wrong there? Why would someone post something like that? The answers are deeper and more interesting than you might think.
  2. The unreasonable effectiveness of 1:1 learning. You might not think it's worth the time, money, or effort to get a private tutor. You might think nobody tutors people for the thing you're trying to learn. If so, you might be wrong! In this segment, Dan shares how he convinced one of his favorite authors to teach him how to write a novel. The tactics and principles are broadly applicable. 
  3. Execution is exponential. In case you needed more motivation to go deeper in your craft, Nathan shares some interesting math that shows just how valuable good execution can be for a business. 
  4. Dan's 7-day silent meditation retreat. If you've ever been curious about meditation, zen, or silent retreats, this segment is for you! Dan shares all.
Aug 14, 2022
Interview: Amanda Natividad teaches a masterclass on how to use Twitter to build an audience
Amanda Natividad is a marketer that grew her Twitter audience from 0 to 100k in just two years. In that same span of time Nathan grew his Twitter following from like 12k to 37k. (Cue sad trombone wah-wah sound.) In this special interview episode of Ordinary Astronauts, Nathan learns everything he can from Amanda about how to grow an audience, and they even live workshop a tweet at the end. Turns out, God really is in the details. Enjoy!
Aug 10, 2022
Social Media? Dying. Solo Creatorhood? Overrated. Meditation? Helps You Feel, Better.

Three topics this week:

  1. Is Social Media Dying? Last week we published an essay by Michael Mignano that made waves, predicting The End of Social Media. The theory is that algorithmic feeds are going to outcompete friend/follow graphs. The question is why, and the answer is that we're generally more interested in people who are professionally interesting than people we happen to know.
  2. Solo Creatorhood is Overrated.  If the world really is moving away from friends and towards creators, the question becomes: what business models will support these creators? Dan and Nathan posit the controversial take that going it alone on the internet is overrated. It's good for some people but not great for so many others. We talk about how brands like Every can have a slot in your head as a sort of "creator"—corporations are people too, my friend! (Mostly kidding!)
  3. How Meditation Helps You Feel, Better. A lot of people think meditation is about feeling better, but what if it's actually about feeling, better? As in feeling whatever you are feeling, but with more depth and awareness and control, rather than being owned by the feeling? This helps us understand what the principle of non-attachment is really about.

And in the after-show, as a bonus, Nathan explains some incredible drama in the F1 world. 

Aug 07, 2022
Instagram's Existential Bet, The Productivity Backlash, and Growth From Your Edges

Three topics this week:

  1. Instagram's Existential Bet — why do they think they need to become more like TikTok? Why isn't it working that well so far, compared to when they copied Snapchat Stories? The answer has to do with the purpose and structure of TikTok's network, and why it's less compatible with Instagram than Snapchat was. Also, an interesting addition from Dan on why we always dislike new things and sometimes it's worth sticking it out, based on his essay from awhile back.
  2. The Productivity Backlash — a few years ago everyone was super into advanced note-taking setups and productivity systems built in new software like Roam and Notion. Now, there's a growing meme online that these things are "mid". In other words they are for midwits that are avoiding doing the real work, and high performers just use Apple Notes. Dan and Nathan discuss why the backlash is happening now, and what is coming next. 
  3. You Grow From Your Edges — a lot of times we have impulses that are good when balanced, but become bad when we take them too far. For example, an environmentalist who cares so much about the planet that they alienate allies, get burnt out, and ultimately have far less positive impact on the ecosystem than if they had a more balanced and flexible approach. It's hard to see this about ourselves, but if we can learn to, it can lead to new levels of personal efficacy and happiness. 
Jul 31, 2022
Logan Bartlett explains how Cartoon Avatars became a hit

Nathan and Logan talk about:

  • What’s going on in markets right now? Public markets haven’t found a bottom yet—what is the effect on VC rounds?
  • Why tech investors aren’t conspiring to bring down deal prices 
  • How the shifting capital markets might affect decisions that founders make about what types of businesses they want to build
  • What caused him to start Cartoon Avatars
  • How he decides what type of content to create 
  • Why Quibi failed (yes, really)
  • Why Cartoon Avatars blew up 
  • And more

If you like this, follow Logan on Twitter and subscribe to Cartoon Avatars!

Jul 27, 2022
Medium, Analyzing Markets, Philosophies as Cuisines, and Mental Chatter

Welcome to the first episode of Ordinary Astronauts! Every week Dan and Nathan will talk about whatever is interesting to them within the world of tech, product building, and the psychology of work. 

This week:

  1. Medium. How are they doing? What's going on in the broader market for writing on the internet? Read more here.
  2. How to Analyze a Market. There's a five step process that Nathan created based on his reading of Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, and Hamilton Helmer. Read more here.
  3. Philosophies as Cuisines. Lots of times when we're thinking about how the world works, and we see different ways of explaining what's happening, we have an impulse to ask "which one is right?" But what if a more useful impulse is to ask "which one is useful for what purposes, in what situations?" Kind of like how there are different culinary traditions, equally valid, maybe there's something similar about philosophies or schools of thought.
  4. Mental Chatter: meaningful or meaningless? It's interesting because it might be useful to view it as meaningless or meaningful depending on your circumstance.

Afterwards, we talk about Dan's trip to Paris!

Jul 24, 2022