The Best Emails I Read in 2020 – Part 2

Here’s the concluding part of the post. Please read the first part here.

I’ve included a bonus at the very end. It’s no gimmick, just lighthearted humour, and maybe a reward of some kind for those who persevere (or scroll) to the end.


1. Back To The Future: Why The 2020 Strategy Is A Lot Like 2000 – Sean D’ Souza

A top contender for my absolute favourite in 2020, this post proposes an invaluable strategy for writers and content creators. It nudges us to

  1. Create content at a blinding speed (because it will help you build a catalogue or portfolio and… discover quality)
  2. Be consistent with a theme (because it will set you apart from the crowd)
  3. Cut back when you have done enough (because it will help you stay sane and fresh)

I’d say Sean D’ Souza is the marketing genius at, but that’s not enough. He expresses vastly unconventional ideas in simple ways through his posts, complete with cartoons he draws himself, podcasts, and info-products. He runs the business with his gracious wife, Renuka (Yes, I can guess she’s a nice person from her mails).

Read the full post and while at it, take a moment to subscribe to his blog or check out some of the info products. And no, I have no economic incentive for my advertising, I only believe you stand to gain a great deal if you are an entrepreneur, marketer, writer, or content creator.


1. Steal the Time from Comfort – Seth Godin

This wisdom is worth repeating, worth heeding in 2021: there will never be a good time to create your masterpiece, to move the world–even just a tiny, tiny bit–except you steal the time from comfort. You and I have to sacrifice to do anything of real significance.

Read the post here, and be sure to read the precursor from Derek Sivers.


1. Tesla won the self-driving car war, they just aren’t telling us – Robert X. Cringley

This dissection of Tesla’s situation was my favourite post on the state of technology. Simple, yet technical enough to pass as a whitepaper. You should read this if you are a fan of Tesla, have been following the self-driving car movement, or are just a fan of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Read the full article and the good comments with feedback from Tesla owners.

2. PG and Jessica – Sam Altman

This is a snapshot, a toast to Paul and Jessica, the founders of Y Combinator, the most beloved (to me) startup accelerator in the world. A little excerpt from the post:

What did they do? They took bets on unknown people and believed in them more than anyone had before. They set strong norms and fought back hard against bad behavior towards YC founders. They trusted their own convictions, were willing to do things their way, and were willing to be disliked by the existing power structures. They focused on the most important things, they worked hard, and they spent a huge amount of time 1:1 with people. They understood the value of community and long-term orientation. When YC was very small, it felt like a family.

Perhaps most importantly, they built an ecosystem (thanks to Joe Gebbia for pointing this out). This is easy to talk about but hard to do, because it requires not being greedy. YC has left a lot of money on the table; other people have made more money from the ecosystem than YC has itself.

Please read the post here. Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator.


1. Electric cars and perpetual motion machines – Paul Jarvis

More on electric cars? Not quite. Paul Jarvis is an amiable contrarian. In this post, he goes against the frenetic go-go-go ethos of the startup space by making a case for moving slow and steady, pausing, and recharging from time to time. He likens running a startup to having an electric car. It can go fast, but it needs to recharge consistently.

He argues the benefits of slowing down for the sake of one’s mental health, pausing to recheck the venture’s vision and direction, and taking the time to review data for learning.

Sadly, Paul discontinued his “Sunday Dispatches” mid-November 2020 (I told you he was different). His past writing is no longer accessible on his website but I was able to find a version of the post.

You can read it here. Warning: some strong language within.

2. 3-2-1: On selective ignorance, courage, and living a life that burns bright – James Clear

Every post from James Clear is a gem. I have been enormously inspired by reading his weekly 3-2-1 Newsletter. Here’s an excerpt from this one:

“Be “selectively ignorant.”

Ignore topics that drain your attention.

Unfollow people that drain your energy.

Abandon projects that drain your time.

Do not keep up with it all. The more selectively ignorant you become, the more broadly knowledgable you can be.”

Please read the full post here.

By the way, I think his book Atomic Habits (an international bestseller) is a wonderful resource on habit building and productivity. It is presented in simple language with powerful, practical insights you can put to use immediately.


1. Justin Goff on the “Chain of Belief” – Mark Ford

Mark Ford, formerly known as Michael Masterson, is a master copywriter and successful entrepreneur. I learnt of his blog in October from his interview with John Forde.

I’m grateful to have learnt so much reading from him about writing (I’m absorbing his style), life, art, and business in this short while. This post is about copywriting and marketing from Justin Goff–whom I never heard of until this. Here’s an excerpt for you:

the first step in the “chain of belief” is NOT to convince them that your course could help them do all that…
Your first goal starts much further back.
Because before you can convince them that they can make 6-figures with your ecomm course, they have to believe the following… 
1.  Their current situation isn’t great, and they need a different income source.
2.  If they’re going to try a different income source they need to believe that ecomm is the way to go (and not real estate, MLM, or whatever else they’re thinking).
3. And after that, you need to convince them that it’s actually possible to make 6-figures a year (without winning the lottery or inheriting it).
All of that stuff comes first in the chain of belief.
Because if they don’t believe those three things, then you don’t have a chance at selling them your course.

Please read the full post here.

2. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self – Tim Challies

This is only Tim’s review of Cal Trueman’s book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, but it is enough to begin to think about.

While The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is a demanding read, especially for those of us for whom many of these categories and characters are unfamiliar, it is a rewarding read. In its pages Trueman aptly explains how and why our culture has arrived at a place where “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” is no longer nonsensical, no longer self-contradictory. And it begins to explain what is at stake if this long march is not interrupted, not refuted according to truth.

Please read the full review here.

P.S. Tim broke the sad news of his son Nick’s death last November. I’d been following Nick’s progress through school in earlier posts and was truly sorry to learn about the event. It’s been a hard time for his family through this period but recent updates tell they continue onwards in grace as they adjust to this new situation.


1. HCZ in the New York Times – Think of Education as More Than Just School – Kwame Owusu-Kesse and Geoffrey Canada

The New York Times article says children (all young people) have a better chance at success in life if, in addition to academic interventions, the community around them is cultivated to support their growth and progress.

Here is the article’s fourth paragraph:

Researchers such as the Harvard economist Raj Chetty have made clear that the neighborhood where a child grows up is perhaps the chief determinant of that child’s social and economic mobility. Of course, the quality of the school the child attends is important, but so is the level of residential segregation, the neighborhood’s social capital, the stability of that child’s family and the neighborhood’s level of poverty.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) works “to end intergenerational poverty in Central Harlem and lead the way for other long-distressed communities nationwide and around the world to do the same.” It develops social intervention programmes for children and families in education, employment, housing, and healthy living.

I find their work inspiring because these are the same issues we need to address here in Nigeria. I’m looking to see how to contribute my quota more actively toward resolving these issues.

You may read the full article on

2. On Following Mediocre Leaders – Tim Challies

The fact is, there are not a lot of great leaders. That’s true in the corridors of power, in the workplace, in the church, in the home. Just like, by definition, most of us are of average height and average intelligence, most of us are of average leadership ability. A few are brilliant, a few are awful, but most fall somewhere in the middle—average, adequate, mediocre.

The question each of us has to consider is this: How do we follow mediocre leaders? After all, we will spend much of our lives doing exactly that. While we may wish we’ll be called to follow the few who are great, the law of averages makes it far more likely we’ll be called to follow the many who are not-so-great. What to do?

Perhaps the place to begin is with admitting our own mediocrity.

I admit, with relief, my own mediocrity. I’ve been a mediocre leader, I’ve been exasperated by what I considered mediocre leadership, and I’ve been a mediocre follower, too. But I appreciate “mediocre” leadership the more nowadays after brief opportunities to lead. Hey, everyone is work in progress, perfection in the making, but we shall forge ahead in our striving for excellence. We may not march or stride or run with the elegance of the best, but we will attain our goals one after the other by grace.

Please read the full post here.


A Little Humor for the Weekend – Mark Ford

And so for the bonus, I share the very first post I received from Mark Ford after his 70th birthday. I laughed a lot. I think you will–or should–laugh, too. Find the funny stuff here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “The Best Emails I Read in 2020 – Part 2”

  1. Pingback: A Selection of My Best Emails of 2020 - Part 1 - Wumi Olatunji

  2. Pingback: The Best Emails I Read in 2020 - Part 1 - Wumi Olatunji

Comments are closed.