Never Normal Newsletter

How to solve shortages, sell $3B in a few hours, and have your most productive day ever

I’m back to business after a couple of weeks off. 🌴🌞

No essay this week, but I did write a twitter thread on how to have your most productive day ever:

I’ve also started recording new Never Normal podcast episodes (coming soon – stay tuned!)

In the meantime, I’m excited to share a few of the things I’ve been reading, listening to, and learning lately.

Inflation, Shortages, and the Supply Chain Crisis

For the past few months, some of my friends have been warning that there are going to be food shortages over the winter and advising me to “stock up on beans and rice.”

I haven’t seen any signs of food shortages here in Spain (in Europe most of the talk has been about rising energy prices and possible gas shortages).

But the supply chain issues have become a mainstream topic of discussion back in the U.S. and in the U.K.

Running out of a particular product is hardly the end of the world (it could even be a sign of something good, like only selling what’s in season).

But as an American used to absolute abundance, images like the one below (via reddit) are unthinkable:

There’s something very unsettling, even dystopian, about making such an effort to maintain appearances that everything is normal.

“Nothing to see here.”

While most items remain in stock, food prices are noticeably higher and still rising.

It’s not just groceries that are affected. Some consumer goods, especially home improvement products and appliances, are out of stock and back ordered everywhere.

And car prices have gone crazy:

Predictably, some people are using the supply chain / shortage issue to attack political opponents or policies they don’t like, but at least one person is actually doing something about it.

Ryan Peterson, CEO of logistics company, Flexport, rented a boat, went on a tour of the (super backlogged) port of Long Beach and talked to as many people “on the ground” as he could.

He shared what he learned about the causes of the supply chain crisis — and what we should do to solve it, in an excellent twitter thread (you can read it as a mini masterclass on leadership and problem solving):

The thread went viral and has already had a positive effect.

The power of social media…

Meanwhile in China

I’m shocked at how big livestream selling (a mash up of social media influencers and the home shopping network) has become. The numbers are seriously staggering:

Check out this Bloomberg profile of Viya (that’s her in the video above), one of the top livestream sellers:

The live, online shopping extravaganza the 34-year-old hosts most nights for her fans across China is part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat. Last month, she hit a record-high audience of more than 37 million—more than the “Game of Thrones” finale, the Oscars or “Sunday Night Football.”

Each night, Viya’s audience places orders worth millions of dollars—typically for cosmetics, appliances, prepared foods or clothing, but she’s also moved houses and cars. On Singles Day, China’s biggest shopping event of the year, she did more than 3 billion yuan in sales.

It seems likely that the same trend will take off in the USA and Europe soon too. <= Huge Opportunity Alert

Principles of Persuasion

Livestream selling works so well because it implements many of the principles of persuasion (like authority, scarcity, and social proof) that convince people to do or buy something.

One of my favorite podcasts, Farnam Street’s The Knowledge Project, just did an excellent episode with Robert Cialdini on exactly this topic: The Principles of Persuasion [The Knowledge Project Ep. #122].

Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is the book on the subject. It’s practically required reading for everyone involved in sales and marketing.

Whether you’ve read the book already or not, I highly recommend listening to the podcast. In one hour, they methodically cover each one of the principles, an example of how it looks in practice, how you can use it, and how you can avoid being manipulated by it.

I’ll Have What She’s Having

If the subject of “why do we buy the things we buy” interests you (or if you think you’re immune to such tactics), then you should definitely read up on Mimetic Desire.

In short, “We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.”

The theory was first put forward by René Girard in the early 60’s, but it’s become very topical in the age of the internet, social media, and memes (same root word).

Making Sense of NFTs

Speaking of memes and things that are selling like crazy these days…

I mentioned NFTs in my recent essay on What’s Worth Owning?

Tom Hirst, who you might remember from Never Normal episode 014, just published a super helpful guide to getting started with NFTs.

In it, Tom covers not only the tech behind NFTs, but also how and where you can buy/mint NFTs, and what you should keep in mind if you do.

All Aboard the “Bike Bus”

How cool is this?!

Beware the Mush Life

I’ll leave you with this quote I’ve been thinking about recently, from the book, Moonwalking with Einstein:

Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it.

You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.

That’s all for this week. More soon…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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