Google’s $305 Billion Dollar Time-Waster

Imagine discovering that the very thing you've been taught to avoid is actually the secret weapon to your success. That’s the lesson Google discovered while adding all of those commas and zeroes to their balance sheet.

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👇 Today’s Briefing

  • Insight: The Power of “Unproductive” Pursuits 🧠

  • Story: Google’s $305 Billion Dollar Time-Waster 🤑

  • Action: Schedule “Waste” Time for Breakthroughs 💡


From ‘Two Minds,’ a play about mathematical psychologists (eh, thrilling).

The Power of “Unproductive” Pursuits 🧠

👉 INSIGHT: Give your mind the freedom to roam, and you might just find yourself stumbling upon the next big thing.

“The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

Amos Tversky, one of the key figures in Michael Lewis’ book The Undoing Project, realized that the key to groundbreaking discoveries and innovations lies in having the freedom to explore, experiment, and even "waste" time on seemingly unproductive pursuits.

  1. The power of "wasted" time: Companies that give their employees the freedom to explore and experiment, even if it seems unproductive, are 3x more likely to achieve breakthrough innovations.

  2. Own your ideas and take risks: Employees who have a sense of ownership and accountability for their work are 43 percent more productive than those who don't.

When you combine these two principles, you've got a recipe for success that's more potent than a double shot of espresso and a hit of pure adrenaline.

But here's the kicker: the benefits of this approach compound over time, like a genius-level investment strategy.

The more you embrace "wasted" time and ownership, the more likely you are to uncover those groundbreaking ideas that can propel you and your organization to new heights.

No one knows this better than Google, who has made at least $305 billion from just one of their time waster projects…


Google’s $305 Billion Dollar Time-Waster 🤑

It's the early 2000s, and Google's got a plan so nuts, it's like giving an addict the keys to a pharmacy. They wanted to encourage employees to “waste time.”

But, back then, here’s the common thinking about extraneous work activities:

  • Employees are already busy on clear, money making endeavors

  • Personal projects might be a total waste of time and resources

  • Won’t workers abuse the idea and spend all day on PornHub?

Google decides to take a leap of faith and trust in the creativity and passion of their people. They realize that innovation doesn't always happen on a strict schedule, and that sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected places.

🕒 Enter the "20 Percent Time" policy.

The offer: Google tells their employees something like, "Hey, we know you're working hard, but we also know you've got some crazy, brilliant ideas up your sleeves. So, take 20% of your time and run with it!"

The skepticism: Their employees are like, "Wait, you want me to spend a whole day each week on some random side project?”

But Google's like, "Trust us, this is gonna be like giving steroids to your brain. Just let your imagination run wild and see what happens!"

Employees start tinkering away on their passion projects, fueled by a mix of curiosity, caffeine, and the thrill of creating something new.

📧 Then, like a bolt of lightning from the tech gods, Gmail is born. Paul, a software engineer with a dream and 20% free time, creates an email system that's smoother than a con man's pickup line. It's got tons of space and a search function that can find a honest lawyer in a sea of ambulance chasers.

Gmail revolutionizes email like the invention of sliced bread revolutionized sandwiches. People are sending emails left and right, wondering how they ever lived without it.

🧾 But wait, there's more: AdSense pops up like a money-making jack-in-the-box. It lets website owners display targeted ads and earn cash faster than a slot machine in Vegas. Online advertising is forever changed, and Google's raking in the dough...eventually hundreds of billions.

In no time, 20% time projects are multiplying like rabbits in a f**king Viagra factory. Employees are shitting out innovations faster than a lactose intolerant dog after a cheese binge and Google's reaping the benefits.

Here are the known products that came from Google's 20% time policy:

  • Gmail: Popular email service was developed by Paul Buchheit

  • AdSense: Advertising platform created by Sergey Brin and Eric Veach

  • Google News: News aggregator developed by Krishna Bharat

  • Orkut: Social networking platform created by Orkut Büyükkökten

  • Google Talk: Instant messaging service developed by engineers

  • Google Suggest: Search suggestion feature created by Kevin Gibbs

  • Google Transit: Public transportation tool developed by engineers

  • Google Sky: Astronomical viewing tool created by engineers

  • Google Translate: Language translation developed by engineers

  • Google Cardboard: Low-cost virtual reality platform created by David Coz and Damien Henry

Google's 20% time policy becomes the stuff of legend, like the tech world's version of King Arthur's Round Table. It's a testament to the power of trusting in your people and letting them pursue their passions.

Key takeaway: This policy didn't just create a few cool products – it created a whole new way of thinking about innovation and creativity in the workplace.


Schedule “Waste” Time for Breakthroughs 💡

Wired founder Kevin Kelly says to focus on “learning without a goal in mind.” Here's how to make "wasted" time your secret weapon:

  1. Block off 20% of your week for exploration (this time is sacred)

  2. Embrace play / curiosity (adopt a beginner’s mindset of “what if?”)

  3. Dive into niche obsessions (go deep to find patterns and connections)

  4. Capture crazy ideas (use mind maps, sketches, or voice memos)

  5. Share these ideas (collaborate and share to refine your thinking)

When you deliberately make space for unproductive f**kery, you're basically giving your noggin a pre-game protein shake before the Big Idea Olympics. Schedule that "waste" time like a VIP meeting with your muse.

Memes of the Week 🤣 

Bite-Sized Reads 📚

[Read] Amos Tversky: "The big choices we make are practically random. The small choices probably tell us more about who we are."

[Read] Larry Page: "We encourage employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google."

[Read] Wired: “Innovation never happens in a vacuum. Which is why the focus on the 80/20 rule is a red herring.”

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Publisher: Jordan Belfort

Editors in Chief: Brock Swinson and Davis Richardson

DISCLAIMER: None of this is financial advice. This newsletter is strictly for educational purposes and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. Please be careful and do your own research. 

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