Stunned and confused

We're going to be hearing more about this now. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

A few years back, my wife and I went to see my wife’s grandma in a nursing home. Toward the end of our visit, she locked eyes with me, squarely across the room.

"Do what you love!" she exclaimed.

Wow, I thought. What poignant and unexpected advice.

Then, I remembered that I was wearing a t-shirt from WeWork — a startup I worked with had been based in one.

"Do What You Love” was WeWork’s slogan, and it was written in stylized script across the front of my shirt.

I like that phrase, even though I think it only works as the second half of a more powerful suggestion: “Find a Way to Do What You Love,” if it were up to me, so you get away from the plain-old “follow your passion” advice that gets a lot of people in trouble.

Also, I’m a little annoyed that it’s associated with WeWork, given everything that happened with the company afterward.

We’re going to be hearing a bit more about WeWork over the coming months, which is ironic since urban office space is less in demand than any time in modern memory. But, there’s a new documentary out, and a pair of Wall Street Journal reporters are ready to release a book about the company’s rise and fall this summer.

I haven’t seen the documentary (it will be available on Hulu April 2), but I talked with one of the reporters a while back, about what he learned about the company’s onetime CEO, Adam Neumann, who cofounded WeWork in 2010, and led it through a colorful rise (to put it lightly), only to burn out spectacularly in 2019.

It was the company’s filings with the SEC before it planned to go public that raised the red flags. As I wrote at the time, it was probably the only SEC filing I’ve ever read that begins with an epigraph, and a weird one at that:

"We dedicate this to the energy of we -- greater than any of us, but inside each of us."

And then:

"We are a community company committed to maximum global impact. Our mission is to elevate the world's consciousness."

It got weirder from there, including details like Newuman’s habit of buying office space and signing deals to lease the space back to WeWork, sometimes on the exact same day. He also reportedly tried to trademark the word “We” and then sell it to WeWork (again, he was the CEO), for almost $6 million.

Oh, I could go on: The company had massive revenue but no profit; in fact, it lost $5,200 for every new customer.

One of the reporters with the book coming out, Eliot Brown of The Wall Street Journal, told me about some of the Neumann anecdotes he compiled:

  • How he and some friends allegedly smoked marijuana together in a private jet on the way to Israel, and how the jet’s owner took the plane back without them after the crew found "a sizable chunk of the drug stuffed in a cereal box."

  • Waxing poetically about "becoming leader of the world, living forever, [and] amassing more than $1 trillion in wealth."

  • Speaking “somberly” in a company meeting before laying off 7 percent of the company’s workforce, and then reportedly bringing in tequila shots and introducing a surprise appearance by Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC. (Brown: Employees were "stunned and confused.")

A few days later, WeWork’s IPO was off, and Neumann was out of the company — but he took with him what might have been the mother of all severance agreements: $1.7 billion, depending on how you calculate.

I once thought it would be cool to be a rich and powerful CEO, but apparently I was aiming too low. Far better to be a former CEO.

If anyone wants to pay me to not be the head of your company, I wouldn’t even need the whole $1.7 billion. Heck, I’d be willing to do it for half that.

Find a way to do what you love, indeed.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Another day, another mass shooting. “A gunman opened fire inside a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado on Monday afternoon, killing 10 people, including a police officer, and sending shoppers fleeing for their lives. One suspect, a man, is in custody.” (Denver Post)

  • President Biden’s economic advisers are pulling together a sweeping $3 trillion package to boost the economy, reduce carbon emissions and narrow economic inequality, beginning with a giant infrastructure plan that may be financed in part through tax increases on corporations and the rich.” (NYT)

  • Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government's longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up. (Axios)

  • The CEO of Goldman Sachs responded to complaints from junior employees who say they are expected to work “inhumane” hours: “[L]lack of work-life balance. This is something that our leadership team and I take very seriously.” (The Guardian)

  • Biggest milestone of the current real estate market? As of January, there are more real-estate agents in the U.S. than there are homes for sale. (“This phenomenon reflects both the extremely tight supply of homes on the market and … tens of thousands more Americans to try[ing] their hands at selling real estate.”) (WSJ)

  • Get vaccinated? You can now get free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme for the rest of the year. (CBS News)

  • Last Friday, the Fagradalsfjall volcano near Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik began erupting for the first time in 800 years. Check out video from this guy who flew a drone through it. (The Verge, Twitter)

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