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Weekly Review #56: MBA origin stories, favela tours, and John Galt, the ‘genocidal prick’

I crashed an informal Stanford GSB event with Kevin Rustagi called simply The Talk where two MBA candidates get up before the rest of their class every week and talk about their journey getting here as well as what they want to do with their degree. The speakers were masterful presenters, as apparently they get coached by expert presenters (all from their class) beforehand, and we were all held riveted by true origin stories framing their desires to end corruption or bigotry entailing everything from rape to kidnappings.

It made me wonder what origin story a privileged white man like me could possibly offer as a similarly compelling person story as reason enough for solving the worlds problems. Sure, I can talk about the challenges of backpacking abroad or some difficult personal project, but thats nothing like the Third World candidate who has fought their way past every obstacle the world has thrown at them to get there. I was also struck by how international (around 45% apparently) and good-looking all these MBA-ers are – I guess if you’re on top of the world you look the part.

I also sat down with Patrick Ip and Elliot Rosenberg on Google campus, both ambitious young upstarts. Elliot ran a Favela Tour Agency in Rio De Janeiro, and says the slums are actually safer than the touristic areas in the city as long as you stay in the right neighborhoods. Patrick has many entrepreneurial credits to his name, which makes him an odd employee at Google, apparently. He says that most people there are not self-starters due to the corporate atmosphere, but that if you take it on yourself to do more you’ll have plenty of resources and opportunities at your disposal. For example, he’s only been there two months but has already worked with Ray Kurzweil. Hmm – always tricky to balance the alluring power of big companies with the gritty learning of little ones.

Online, we’ve got nifty startups in Crowdcast, which adds analytics, chat, and other supercharges to your Google Hangouts, and Splash, which makes it super easy to throw up a landing page for your upcoming event.

Habits: Corbett Barr introduces the Complete Calendar, which is basically him plotting out every hour of his weeks beforehand so that he knows what he should be doing at any given time. Plus there’s the best Habits of Productive Writers – no such thing as writers block, write more than talk, look for inspiration everywhere, believe in themselves, know what they’re good at, read a lot, can pound out a draft, work on more thing at once, stop at easy starting points, and never say ‘if only I had ____’. And Shane Snow tells you how to make your writing shareable – curate an identity, make it readable, and make it novel. Good stuff.

Resources: Fizzle’s 21 actions to set up your blog for massive success is a solid checklist for any aspiring blogger, while 5 WordPress Plugins for landing pages make your search for a solid landing page a lot easier, though LeadPages and Instapage do this as well.

The NYT has more reasons to keep a diary – it makes you feel better even when you write about sad emotions.

Cracked has a surprisingly good story on Harsh Life Truths – mainly, the universe doesn’t care about you beyond what you can produce of value. So why aren’t you producing value?

And I’ve got to share John Scalzi’s opinion on Atlas Shrugged – that no matter how helpful Galt’s inventions were, he’s still a ‘genocidal prick’. It’s a hilarious and poignant review that’s as relevant now with the advent of Google as it was in Ayn Rand’s time – Scalzi even wrote another short story about yogurt taking over the world (read: supercomputers) to illustrate his point here.

Fun stuff online includes the Pyro Handheld Fireshooter, which lets you actually shoot fire from your hands like Iron Man, and  Shia Labeouf, an absurd song portraying the Hollywood superstar as a cannibal with preposterously high production value.