🦊 Quick Brown Fox #26

Hey friends,

I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. I’m feeling pretty tired today — I didn’t sleep well because I was woken up around 3AM last night by incredibly loud claps of thunder. After the initial shock, I looked out the window and saw a sky covered with flashes of lightning. I wondered how it could be raining when we’re in the middle of a heat wave in the Bay Area. Then I noticed there was no rain at all! I was pretty drowsy and wondered if I was still dreaming… It was definitely a 2020 moment.

Turns it was a ‘dry thunderstorm’, which apparently is a type of thunderstorm where most or all of its precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground. Strangeness aside, the photos and videos of the storm are simply remarkable. Check out this incredible photo of the lightning as a backdrop to the Golden Gate Bridge, along with this stunning video capture and time-lapse.

Stay safe out there!

This week:

  • (New Essay) Once a New Yorker: New York is a city that thrives on density, but the pandemic has set its foundation on fire. I share my memories, worries, and strive to find room for optimism.

  • Flip the Script: Rethinking how we measure success in writing.

  • Beautiful artwork of trees, links to a new podcast interview on the future of work, more music, and last but not least a video I simply cannot explain.


The following is a preview — you can view the full essay on my blog.

📝 Once a New Yorker

I miss wandering the streets of Manhattan.

I’d walk by five different groups of people and hear five different languages. The scale of its racial and ethnic diversity was a wonderful thing to experience. I could walk down any street and feel like I belonged.

I remember getting an impromptu text from a friend. I hopped on the subway and was standing next to them fifteen minutes later. There came a sense of liberation through that kind of mobility — movement is at the very core of the city’s DNA. Everything and everyone felt like a subway ride away. I only lived there for a couple of years, but its imprint on my soul will last a lifetime.

These memories feel distant and fuzzy now. They’re no longer grounded in reality. After the devastation from the first wave of COVID hit New York, its urban freedom became a necessary sacrifice for survival. The city that never sleeps finally went to bed. But how does one sleep with the weight of a pandemic on their mind? Instead of an exuberant city full of life, New Yorkers are sheltering in a ghost town.

Like many of its global counterparts, New York is a city that thrives on density. Its greatest strength has become its noose. COVID has set its foundation on fire.

I’m grieving for New York’s present.

I’m worried about its future.

Since the pandemic shutdowns began, we’ve seen an exodus of people moving out of cities and into suburbs all across America. I’m watching it happen in the Bay Area…

Continue Reading


🙃 Flip the Script

I read an interesting post from Sari Azout which included a lot of valuable advice on managing yourself. In particular, her section on avoiding ‘insecurity work’ stood out:

When you’re anxious, there is no quicker relief than checking things. Checking your Substack subscriber stats, refreshing your inbox and order confirmations. Scott Belsky coined the term insecurity work to describe work that does not move the ball forward, but is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing.

Unlike insecurity work, deep work often feels elusive because it takes time. It requires weaning yourself from distractions and being unencumbered by the highs and lows of the day to day. Your ultimate objective is to ride the waves of your business with serenity.

I’ve written in the past about the approach I’m taking with this newsletter — rather than focusing on growth, I focus on pursuing my enthusiasms and connecting with people. Even so, I still occasionally get caught in the trap of checking stats too often. I often wish that instead of seeing a page with my subscriber count, I could see a dashboard things that really mattered to me. I tweeted out a thread with some quick thoughts around it and got quite a surprisingly strong response (lots of replies in the thread which are worth a look):

It’s clear that people resonated with the idea of ‘flipping the script’ — defining one’s own metrics for success rather than letting them be dictated by platforms. I wanted to discuss the problem a bit more with folks who engaged in the thread, so I decided to host an impromptu group video call and open it up to folks on the thread. I haven’t hosted group calls open to the public before, so I was a bit nervous about it. We had the call this morning (Sunday), and it went really well! I’ll be giving the topic some more thought and likely followup with some takeaways from the discussion soon.

It’s kind of amazing to me that this all happened in a matter of days. A simple tweet to share an idea I resonated, which led to me creating a very active thread on related ideas around metrics, which evolved into a quick group call where folks actually showed up. Pretty neat! I feel like I’m really getting the hang of using Twitter to foster engaging conversations and build more meaningful connections.


🌲 Trees

Really loved these pieces of art from Min Yum. There’s so much energy in each piece! The first one makes me think of a fun and playful field from a Zelda video game. The second one is so mesmerizing in the way its branches fuse with the clouds.


🔗 Quick Links

  • Future of Work Project (Podcast): I was interviewed by Derrick Franco for his podcast discussing the future of work, and how the pandemic is changing its landscape. We covered a lot of interesting topics including writing online, mental models and pursuing a polymath life. This was probably one of the better interviews I’ve done in terms of covering a lot of different topics I’m currently thinking about. I think you’ll enjoy this one!

  • Jeremy Olander Radio (Spotify): Sometimes I want to get into a more ‘high energy’ focus (either when I’m coding, or when I’m trying to power through a task), and this is my go-to playlist for that. Olander is one of my all-time favorite artists — his brand of progressive house is amazing, and all the tracks from this playlist come with energy without being overbearing. I’ve been to a ton of his life performances in San Francisco, and really hope to see him perform again soon…

  • The Midnight - Endless Summer (Spotify): Really enjoying this album by The Midnight, especially the track ‘Sunset’. It’s kind of a throwback vibe, with an old school melodic sound. They also have an instrumental version of the album that is more work-friendly (I can never work to any music with vocals, I find it too distracting).

  • Good Luck Yonpey (Vimeo): I cannot explain what this video is. I can only tell you that it exists. It will either make you laugh uncontrollably, or stare blankly. Possibly both. Enjoy!


Until next time,

—Salman

🌎 salman.io | 🐦 @daretorant