FakePixels - Tina He


Fakepixels is a publication for courageous ideas and creative endeavors. We pursue complex thinking, technical imagination, and deep empathy to renew our hope for the near future.


My favorite newsletter ever! I binge-read the entire archive in a few days. Had to take notes on this because it's always full of gems in each issue.


Volume 48

  • Bacon-cooler stories: If you’re eating breakfast while reading the paper and a story is so surprising that the bacon on your fork remains uneaten and cools down, you know it’s compelling.

  • Four guiding principles for being a journalist by Bob Woodward:

  1. Move outside your comfort zone

  2. Leave opinion out of stories

  3. Avoid taking sides

  4. All good work is done in defiance of management

Volume 47

  • 忍者,心怀天下, the resilient has a heart that contains all under the heaven

Volume 46

  • According to Ibn Khaldun, history seems to move in four acts, corresponding to four generations.

  • First generation: revolutionaries who want to make a radical break with the past, establishing new values but also creating chaos in the struggle to do so.

  • Second generation: craves some order. They are still feeling the heat of the revolution itself, having lived through it at a very early age, but they want to stabilize the world, establish some conventions and dogma.

  • Third generation: feels less passionate about protecting the values of the founders of the revolution. They are pragmatists. They want to solve problems and make life as comfortable as possible. Material concerns predominate, and people can become quite individualistic.

  • Fourth generation: feels that society has lost its vitality and begins to question the values they have inherited, some becoming quite cynical. A crisis of sorts emerges.

  • These narratives, despite being criticized as oversimplistic and borderline manipulative, are like prisms through which we can gain the necessary understanding to act urgently in response to the environment.

  • Product-zeitgeist fit: when a product resonates with the mood of the times. These can be determined with the following tests:

  • "Nerd Heat": When the most talented, hardest working, and most in-demand people—the product managers, engineers, and data scientists—are so intrigued by a product that they're working on it, excited by it, and trying to make it a thing.

  • The "Despite Test": When people are using a product despite the fact that it's not the best thing out there.

  • The "T-shirt Test": If people with no connection to the company are wearing their t-shirts or putting their stickers on their laptops or wearing their socks, that desire to associate with the idea indicates as much a movement as a product.

  • The "Eyebrow Test": In the early days, things that have product zeitgeist fit often feel misunderstood or controversial. At first blush, the conceit may even raise a few eyebrows.

  • As a student, there used to only be three possible courses of action when you don't know the answer to a question: 1. Admit you don't know the answer. 2. Pretend you know the answer even if you know you don't. 3. Imitate someone who seems to know the answer even if you can't be sure they do.

  • But Vaughn Tan argues that with technology, now there is a fourth viable option: external memory systems (e.g. search engines). These make learning into ritual and that technology now disguises ritual as actual learning. In other words, I can easily "appear smart" on a subject by a series of Google searches and Wiki page hopping without really understanding neither the answer nor the question.

  • Extrapolation: to compartmentalize your thoughts and actions you need to close them before you move on to another task.

  • It's simple to implement. I ask myself a few questions to extrapolate what I need to take away before I move on to the next task: What did I learn? Why is that useful for me? How / when will I use this?

Volume 44

  • Software is not only eating the world but cannibalistically eating itself - Can Duruk

  • To ponder about automation: Have we enabled creativity by reducing barriers of creation or accelerated its demise by abstracting away the lessons that we get to learn from facing the messy complexity of reality?

  • The way language is being spoken, permeated, and interpreted has been changed with new media of transmission. Words are no longer a writer’s artistic expression but are designed to fulfill a certain purpose.

  • Four impulses that propel creators to create (from George Orwell's "Why I Write"): sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, political purpose.

Volume 43

  • Wabi: Japanese aesthetic that celebrates austerity, spontaneity, and apparent artlessness

  • The limits of her language became the limits of her world.

  • What if literature, the story, the dialogues in the film, the copies on our screen, at its best, can serve as a fire escape? A space of raw intimacy where we can tell each other honestly how we feel.

Volume 42

  • Jared Diamond makes a juxtaposition between personal and national crises. Inspired by the work of psychotherapists, he listed the 12 factors that determine the outcomes of personal crises.

Volume 41

  • In the original Greek, apocalypse doesn’t mean the catastrophe; it means the uncovering.

  • My proficiency with shortcuts, productivity tools, and swiss grids is attained at a cost of suppressing and backlogging our messy, unprocessed emotions. The feelings, which remain unclaimed and uninterrupted, manifest themselves as directionless anxiety. We feel a compulsive need to remain busy, clinging to a jam-packed schedule that ensures we don’t have to confront the scary thoughts. (same)

  • Without a deep understanding of ourselves, we also become inept at understanding others, especially those who share the same world but a different reality. And without a deep understanding of others, it’s almost impossible to build, even when tools are getting friendlier, and more accessible than ever.

  • Consumer culture has anesthetized the need for deep emotional connection and spiritual maturity. Example from Tara Isabella Burton: "Purveyors of wellness have long said that the body is a temple. But at SoulCycle, at least, the body is worshipper, temple and deity alike."

  • Art has a direct purpose as a tool of education. The point of art is to create the kind of beauty that makes us feel less alone, to render tough lessons easier to absorb, to amplify perspectives we tend to overlook, to nudge us towards seeing reality as a canvas of possibility.

  • Like artists, the best founders I know possess the sensitivity to people’s pleasures and pains that others might overlook, or not take seriously enough to spend time thinking about. What distinguishes an artist is that they use their sensitivity to create an alternative version of reality through music, films, or imagery. For founders, instead of just showing others how nice this could be, the business directly enables other people to have the same satisfaction themselves. And it is then able to share this pleasure on a very large scale.

Volume 40

  • It’s not just the app or the website that creates the value, but the collective incentives of all the people plugged into it. 

  • The danger of building forward with very little understanding of the past is to build for the problem that exists in a static snapshot of our current state, while the solution might only be informed by the underlying mechanisms that generate that state.

Volume 39

  • Jem Bendell explains that resilience —whether that of humanity or of the natural world — is not about the capacity to return to a pre-catastrophe state. Resilience means the ability to retain the things we value most despite the fact that everything is different.

Volume 37

  • Consumerization of the enterprise: recent wave of SaaS businesses that share similar properties with a consumer company — from the look and feel of the product to their go-to-market strategy

Volume 36

  • In Chinese, a crisis is spelled as Wei危(danger)-Ji机(crucial occasion, critical point, opportunity).

  • Our compassion towards one another and our acts of kindness and courage will become data points that shape the building blocks of this new reality. It’s the generative nature of our existence—as data points—and the technology’s readiness to capture these nuances that will make the recovery from this crisis different.

  • We once believed that software is a piece of neutral technology, but “software is not neutral. Different software embeds different philosophies, and these philosophies, as they become ubiquitous, become invisible." - Jaron Lanier

Volume 34

  • “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Volume 33

  • Emotional Capitalism: an ideal state of an economic system that serves to empower individuals to fulfill needs higher up in Marlow’s pyramid.

  • To understand humans is to know that we are all driven by our shared needs to feel loved, safe, and a sense of belonging.

  • This framework applies to not just building culture, but products as well

  • We are all becoming priests of our own secular faith, and brands are arming us with the diction for our own beliefs. What we demand will become what we buy and what we preach.

Volume 32

  • Three plateaus in adult mental development: the development of the socialized mind, the self-authoring mind, and the self-transforming mind.

  • The concrete manifestation of the change they want to make is subject to change. The profile of a self-transforming mind resonates with the profile of an artist.

  • The self-creation requires self-destruction. The world creation requires world destruction. When someone approaches mastery and can no longer prescribe the secret to their successes, it’s because they’ve constructed the world themselves through the diligence of both the conscious and the unconscious, the real and the unreal. The best founders, investors, writers, scientists have all reached this state of consilience.

  • How to get to self-transforming: embrace all of being human, both the good and the ugly.

Volume 31

  • It’s uncanny the media rhetorics surrounding technology in the past century has remained almost identical. I joked that if we replaced “machines” with “AI” in these headlines, no one would’ve noticed.

  • In reality, change is not exponential but a series of S-curves. There are periods of frenzy, and there are quiet periods.

  • Plato articulated the limits of intellectuals in The Republic by describing that the world can only be put into order if “philosophers becomes kings or kings philosophers.” He implied that thinkers should stop imagining that ideas alone can ever change reality. “Kingship” is required to hold the world together by laws, practices, institutions, financial structures, businesses, and government. Improvements won’t be made until all legions align on the mission and tread through the unglamorous paths together

Volume 30

  • “The creation of something complete and whole, be it good or bad – and if it’s never entirely good, it’s very often not all bad – yes, the creation of something complete seems to stir in me above all a feeling of envy. A completed thing is like a child; although imperfect like everything human, it belongs to us like our own children.” ― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

  • The concepts of strength, power, and endurance can be applied to both fitness and career.

Volume 29

  • "I am not what has happened to me; I am what I choose to become” - Carl jung

Volume 28

  • Creativity in so much more science than art, and so much more methodological than spontaneous. It feels like stumbling into a bookstore in a foreign country that carries the same book that you are reading right now.

Volume 27

  • Weavers: people who, by being who they are, weave the people in their community together

  • Radical mutuality: We are all completely equal, regardless of where society ranks us. “I am broken; I need others to survive,” an afterschool program leader in Houston told us. “We don’t do things for people. We don’t do things to people. We do things with people,”

  • There are emerging trends of people craving for authenticity and quality in their consumption of food as well as content. High quality food fuels the body, high quality content fuels the mind, and high quality relationships with others fuels the soul. Innovations have been burgeoning in the food and fitness space for the past years, and there’s still a huge blank space in the latter two.

Volume 26

  • Experience design: the end to end user journey of brand, marketing, and storytelling.

  • There is a need to balance between cultural sensibility and analytical rigor.

  • PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS: How can long-term purposes be pursued in a short-term society? How can durable social relations be sustained? How can a human being develop a narrative of identity and life history in a society composed of episodes and fragments?

Volume 25

  • Being authentic means, you serve the people you want to help and delight the souls who need it the most.

  • We should be malleable, and we learn to adapt to what serves our audience the best.

  • No creation is inherently good or bad on its own, it’s about its relations with everything else in the ecosystem.

Volume 24

  • I was disappointed by the collective worship for the corporate narrative and the next day fascinated by the creation of such narrative.

Volume 23

  • Most people in their early 20s prioritize process and productivity over thoughtfulness.

  • There is a market for literally everything.

  • Before you find that niche, optimize for the brand.

Volume 22

  • “Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others - coldly, efficiently, systematically. I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories - stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.” - Haruki Marukami • The ability to construct a story from the painful reality is highly scarce and valuable. • It’s becoming evident that the next generation of ventures needs to be responsible for story-telling in a way that shapes a new set of values in the commercial world. Building companies will become more and more like writing for a film or novel. The founder wants to consider what it is the unite people, alienate them, put them into conflicts and unity. The voices, characters, tensions, motifs of the company guide people who have long been forgotten by mainstream narrative how to live and how to work. • So take some time and reflect on what is your moment that inspires your actions right now? What kind of narrative do you want to create in the next five years? What are the things that are stopping you now? • Three styles of communication that use the concept of truth in different ways: • Advocates: people who select competing truths to create a reasonable impression of reality, with the purpose of achieving a goal • Misinformers: people who innocently share competing truths that distort reality (a common complaint with social media, with people reposting content without checking sources) • Misleaders: people who deliberately deploy competing truths to create an impression of reality that they know is not true (e.g. Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum, which highlighted money going out to the EU but not what came back in return)

Volume 21

  • Having a vision is "to ask for what you want".

Volume 20

  • The way she related creating to electric cycling here is so good,, also how she thinks abt this is what leadership is

  • Leaders delineate artificial boundaries of "us" and elevate the identity of each individual in a group by blatantly and proudly enunciating your values. Leaders come from every corner.

  • The innovations happening in the consumer space are showing glimpses into how they leverage tech to vertically integrate storytelling and tribe building in every step of the value chain, from the production of the outfits you wear (Nike collaborating with Barry’s) to the content you read (Glossier monetizing their readership).

  • While physical health and fitness is easier to quantify, measure, and monetize, there's still a lot to be explored when it comes to one's intellectual and spiritual strength. What if we can also make everyone believe that they’re gifted students, creative makers, compelling storytellers, and impactful leaders? Everyone wants to live a life bigger than oneself, and one can do that the best when their natural strengths align with what the world needs the most. The best talent needs a new way to be discovered, validated, and utilized in a way that's not simply centered around brand signals and numeric metrics used by corporate employment.

  • How to get ideas out aside from fitness: productive daydreaming/actionable visualization

Volume 19

  • Why are emotions and sentiments exclusive to poetry and the arts, and why are impact and scale exclusive to technology and commerce? Why are enterprises with bold narratives composed of empty promises?

  • The love for one's work really isn't that much different from the love for another person. It goes through phases — from initial interest, to sheer bliss, to extensive research, to total obsession, to frustration, and finally to complete acceptance. The progression is not linear but cyclical.

Volume 18

  • Kaufman self-actualization scale : higher scorers on his self-actualization scale tended also to score higher on feelings of oneness with the world. He believed self-actualizing individuals are able to paradoxically merge with a common humanity while at the same time able to maintain a strong identity and sense of self.

Volume 17

  • Whenever someone asks you for advice, listen. Do not advise unless they explicitly ask for it. People already know the answers to those questions — give them the chance to express and externalize them.” In short: The best way to be helpful is to simply be present.

  • Curse of competence: We are fulfilling our full potential when we are doing what we’re programmed to do, but those are the exact things that can limit us as external signals cloud our internal visor

Volume 16

• a good leader comes down to what they do and whether they can do three things very well: to understand, to direct, and to inspire. They understand by knowing your superpower and trying to see things from your point of view, they direct by envisioning a better version of the current situation and showing the best way to get there, and they inspire by their characters and relentless pursuit of their visions. You usually know you are working under a great leader when you feel propelled to become a better version of yourself, as uncomfortable or stressful as the process may get.

• Some questions that have worked magic for me:

1. Why are people in this group? What motivates them to join? If they don’t have an answer to those questions, I should at least share with them why I decided to do this thing.

2. What are their metrics of progress? What are their superpowers? Are there tangible ways I can help them achieve those metrics by leveraging those superpowers? Is my assessment the same or different with theirs?

3. Am I doing my best to get to the shared vision of the group? Am I spending too much time managing tasks than doing the work to get there?

Volume 15

• Career planning tool 8000 hours

Misleaders: people who deliberately deploy competing truths to create an impression of reality that they know is not true (e.g. Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum, which highlighted money going out to the EU but not what came back in return)

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