Listening to Patrick Collison

I discovered one of my favorite podcast episodes of all time a few days ago: Shane Parrish of Farnam Street interviewing Patrick Collison. It is rare to encounter a podcast where someone as insightful as Collison is the main guest. It is even rarer to have that person be dropping a truth bomb a minute for an hour-long conversation, and I would attribute at least part of that to Parrish’s strong questioning.

The podcast was so good that I have to go back and re-listen to it and take detailed notes. That’s the thing with audiobooks and podcasts: they are great mediums to absorb a ton of information while being active, but they aren’t good for reflecting on really interesting points (at least not for me). The points briefly step into the light for their moment and then quickly pass, and you have to rewind a dozen times to catch the main points.

This reminds me of the limits of oral communication that James Gleick outlined in the excellent book The Information, where he argued that the advent of writing heralded the birth of thinking. Before writing, the reliance on oral communication and storing bits of knowledge in the mind meant that humans did not have a meaningful way to reflect on what was being communicated. Every time I get frustrated with the audio medium, I wonder if I am experiencing what pre-writing civilization felt like.

Back to Collison: he covered so much ground in the conversation. He talked about surrounding himself with high quality peers, about his framework for making decisions, the Buxton Index, scaling Stripe, and more. This is certainly an episode that I’m saving to re-listen to over and over again, and I am now seeking out more interviews of Collison (and his brother John).

Who are comparable speakers? There are loads of extremely thoughtful people, and then there are Collison-level thoughtful individuals, the ones whose every other sentence is noteworthy. I place Paul Ford in the same category, and for a while Musk was in that group.

Footnote: I brief followed Farnam Street a few years ago (around a similar time as I was following Brain Pickings) but found it ponderous and a little pretentious. Coming back to it now, I find myself enthralled by the best articles. This may be an illustration of where my head is at these days: I’m hungry for ways to improve myself. It may also be a result of me only picking things to read off the “most popular articles of all time” list. I’ve found similar benefits to only spending time on the best episodes from a good podcast, instead of subscribing to everything new coming out of that podcast.

What is a good way to aggregate the best of the best?

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