Illustration: Christoph Niemann.

Required Reading: Creating Cults, Finding Randomness & Maverick Geniuses

Just because an article didn’t come through your RSS feed one second ago, doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time! For our latest Required Reading roundup, we sift through the past month’s tweets @the99percent and curate our top 5 reads – articles, interviews, and blog posts that offer essential insights into making ideas happen. Read on for tips on pushing yourself, managing your time, hiring, and more.

1. How Do Maverick Geniuses Get Created?

Since it was founded in 1861, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has boasted a stunning capacity to produce graduates who go on to found profitable, innovative companies. “If the MIT was a country, it would have the 11th highest GDP of any nation in the world.” In this piece, The Guardian takes a look at what gives MIT an edge. Not surprisingly the school’s curriculum focuses on doing, not dreaming:

From the moment MIT was founded by William Barton Rogers in 1861 it was clear what it was not. It was not like the other school up the river. While Harvard stuck to the English model of an Oxbridge classical education, with its emphasis on Latin and Greek as befitted the landed aristocracy, MIT would look to the German system of learning based onresearch and hands-on experimentation, championing meritocracy and industry where Harvard preferred the privileges of birth. Knowledge was at a premium, yes, but it had to be useful.

2. Does Great Hiring Mean Creating A Cult? (Yes.)

Via Sebastian Marshall, I recently stumbled on this piece by veteran entrepreneur Steve Newcomb, which dispenses some wonderful, no-nonsense advice on how to hire well and how to work through your anxieties as a business owner. Don’t be deterred by its length, the whole thing is worth reading.

Steve on managing your start-up anxiety:

Whenever people ask me how I make it through, I always say the same thing.  Sit down and write down the shit storms that you are worrying about and divide them into two list.  Those that are under your control and those that aren’t.  Then focus on the list that you can control.  If you stare at that list long enough you’ll realize a commonality.  That the solution to every single one of them begins with having a team that is rock solid, one that isn’t afraid of challenges and one that believes in you as a founder.  If you do this one thing right, it will steady you and calm your mind enough to face and conquer any challenge.

3. Illustrator Christoph Niemann on Happiness, Work and Creativity

A regular illustrator for the New Yorker, the New York Times, and other major publications, Christoph Niemann knows the life of the freelance creative professional inside and out. I had a great conversation with him about creativity and deadlines on 99U, and Swiss Miss recently invited him to give an awesome talk at her Creative Mornings. Watch it here.


Illustration: Christoph Niemann.

4. 50 Ways to Expose Yourself to Randomness

The Twitter-sphere recently resurfaced this classic post from one of our favorite bloggers, Ben Casanocha. Our greatest strokes of luck often come through random connections, and this list is all about pushing outside of your comfort zone to spark even more ideas, connections, and relationships.

Some of my favorites:

1. Go to the nearest magazine shop. Now. Spend 20 minutes. Pick up 20 — twenty! — magazines. None should be ones you normally read. Spend the better part of a day perusing them. Tear stuff out. Make notes. Create files. Goal: Stretch! Repeat . . . monthly . . . or at least bi-monthly.
18. A crummy little assignment comes along. But it would give you a chance to work with a group of people you’ve never worked with before. Take the assignment.

34. Institute a monthly Brown Bag Lunch Session. Encourage all your colleagues to nominate interesting people to be invited. Criterion: “I wouldn’t have expected us to invite — — .”

36. Consider a . . . four-month sabbatical.

5. Roseanne Barr on How Hollywood Really Works

One of the month’s most unexpected gems was a tell-all piece by comedian Roseanne Barr about the making of her runaway hit sitcom, Roseanne. The eye-opening essay provides an excoriating account of how Hollywood really works (at least from Roseanne’s perspective), and she doesn’t shy away from taboo topics.

Roseanne Barr on her first disillusionment:

It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of Roseanne god-awful. It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas—and the ideas of my sister and my first husband, Bill—had been stolen. The pilot was screened, and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party. Not one person noticed.

What Are You Reading?

What have you read lately that opened your eyes?

Check out our previous Required Reading roundup.

More insights on: Focus, Hiring

Jocelyn K. Glei

more posts →
A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with understanding how work gives our lives meaning. She has authored three books about work, creativity, and business, including the Amazon bestsellers Manage Your Day-to-Day and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.
load comments (11)
  • Kristin Eide

    Thank you for sharing! If this article didn’t show up on my RSS feed then I would’ve never seen these articles ;)

  • Custom essay

    That article is so interesting and makes a very nice image in my mind. That is very much helpful in nominating the board of directors.

  • Ruchita88

    I loved the ‘staying off the internet for consecutive 90 minutes’
    That really works.

  • Elizabeth Saunders

    These articles definitely support your point that it’s not just about knowing but doing. I’ve found that asking myself these questions really helps me to stay focused on the right work activities:

    -When sorting through e-mail that may have cool information, I ask myself, “Would I have missed this if I had never received it?” If this answer is, “No,” I try to delete it before opening it.

    -When I’m tempted to invest in more training, I ask myself, “Am I implementing on what I already know is my most important next step?” If the answer is, “No,” it’s time to do more, not learn more.

    -Finally if I notice that I’m avoiding the important, but difficult, activities. I ask myself, “How can I be more accountable and transparent with people I respect?” Positive peer pressure is an awesome motivator!

    To your brilliance!
    Elizabeth Saunders

  • mac

    Nice list. It’s a pleasure to read interesting, and well written, post (rather than the crap that fills up and overflows on most of the web, most days).

    I’m writing – The Problem With Revolutions Is Not How They Start, But How They End (You, Your Market And Your Future)… over at:


  • uk essay

    Great analysis

  • Wanda Weithers

    Just found the site. Very excited to put all of this to work. Thanks! 

  • essays

    thanks) interesting)

  • Steven Brewis

    Love it, but dont agree with all of it, creativity does not come from doing, it comes from thinking. Doing is executing the idea, not coming up with it, correct?

  • none

    Conjuring a universal lemon made world requires some lemons to be made out of cheese. But in turn this cheese will be made out of some other sort of lemons, or lemon based product. In a closed circuit simulation, made only of lemons, where is source of randomness? Every sufficiently dynamic system must have empty space. The secret nobody has bothered to scrawl out to you in lemon and/or cheese symbology, is: “Empty” space is in fact fully saturated with randomness, which is not even random but is maximally packed with universal karmatic information. Thus in our lemon-based reality, what we need to do to create new and interesting lemon patterns, is clear out a little circle where there are no lemons. While maintaining the emptiness of the space, slowly squeeze a few drops of juice from your favorite lemons. Perhaps add some whole lemon mutations that you are entirely enamored of. But remember, you are only shaping the lemons around the empty space form that was already there. Keep touching the emptiness, with every motion motivated by lemon love/gravity. Continue until exhausted. Sprinkle with cheese, and you’re done. If the pattern is viable, you and other of the lemon-forms at the periphery, will be attracted to it. The lemon forms must be within gravitational range! You must continue to maintain some space around it, if it is to grow. If viable, the pattern will fairly automatically spread. And then the choice is no longer yours. But you will likely have more cheese.

  • JDiva54

    I finished reading Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin” on my recent vacation. While there was nothing particularly new in what he said – it was a good reminder of some basic principles concerning what it means to be an artist. I also read Harvard Magazine’s summer issue of OnPoint. It contained  a great collection of articles.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,144 other followers