The Monday Media Diet with Chris Papasadero
On the power of recommendations, the timeless way of building, and Nolan Bushnell.
Chris (CP) is a friend of WITI. He’s a former action guy, a screenwriter, and a business operator. Along with our pal Brady, he is responsible for one of the most read WITI editions of all time: the Go Bag Edition. We like to have a range of different folks and backgrounds on MMD, and Chris doesn’t disappoint as a multi-hyphenate. Have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
By day, I’m the Chief Commercial Officer for a commercial intelligence company, and I live in NYC. Prior to my career in tech, I was a Green Beret in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces; by night I write fiction about that world of clandestine military operations.
Describe your media diet.
My media diet isn’t publications, it’s people. I like to outsource my thinking to people who are smarter than me on a thing, I think it’s better than having to sift through the opinions of strangers. A few of my one-on-one discussions have been going on for years, mostly via email:
2 years: a debate about the best BBQ sauce (it’s Franklin’s)
3 years: sharing useful mental models and leadership lessons learned.
10 years: sharing the best places to hunt and fish in Oregon (the Wallowas and the Metoulius)
15 years: swapping inspiration modern designers like Achille Castiglioni and Vernor Panton.
20 years: sharing scifi book recommendations (recents: 1, 2, 3)
Part of our company’s strategy is combining data with analysis to provide a sort of 'PDB-as-a-service', so my first read of the day is whatever our London team has put out that morning. I read paper copies of the FT and WSJ to see who has the better predictions – it’s always us. We called Russia/Ukraine months before anyone else. I get the executive edition of WITI and so should you.
What’s the last great book you read?
I have read and re-read Anathem by Neal Stephenson since it came out. Impossible to talk about without spoiling the plot, but it’s an entertaining and accessible survey of advanced concepts in mathematics, physics, and philosophy.
What are you reading now?
The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander (RIP) and A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester. I’m trying to learn about why it seems so expensive and hard for a man to build his own home. Maybe we’d have less of a housing crunch if we could build our own homes and not rely on banks and contractors.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I had steep library fines as a very young man and learned it was better for me to just buy the book and sample it here and there. It might take me years to get through the whole thing.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
We’ve lost the thread on the very subjects that allowed us to progress as a civilization: everyone should be reading about formal logic, reason, grammar, and rhetoric - your classic trivium. These topics are the only antidote to the post-truth cancer.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
The actual phone app probably isn’t famous enough! Imagine calling someone and asking them how their day went, what the weather is in their hometown, and what their summer plans are. Healthy and pure.
Plane or train?
Plane. Virgin Atlantic for life.
What is one place everyone should visit?
The Old Souk in Erbil. Soaring brick arches over piles of spices, and friendly Kurds, happy to see you.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into
During the pandemic, I was convinced to take some of my military stories and weave them into fiction. I’ve been lucky this year in screenwriting and have optioned two scripts, one of which has been greenlit and the other is in packaging. For source material, I prefer dusty stuff and strategy graveyards, foreign and domestic. I love Tom Clancy, but he was an insurance salesman who thought soldiers were boy scouts and spies were beltway WASPs. The reality is much grittier – and cinematic.
"The ultimate inspiration is the deadline" – Nolan Bushnell, inventor of Pong, and founder of Atari and the Chuck E. Cheese. (CP)
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An ongoing partnership where we highlight interesting McKinsey research, writing, and data.
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Chris (CP)
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Love hearing that someone other than me surrounds themselves with people smarter than they are in the hopes of enrichment, connection, and that some of the smarts will rub off on them!
I'm a big fan of the Mental Models book you shared. Systematic thinking is something that I'd like to see more people doing in this bite-sized, instant gratification, world.