Welcome to a new selection of IVY Lessons from five IVY Thought Leaders. This week, we cover a range of topics with the help of a legendary tech entrepreneur, an award-winning author, renowned professors from Georgetown University and Harvard University, and a former U.S. Ambassador.

One of this week’s most intriguing questions: Do you think free will exists? Comment below with your thoughts! 

Be Sure You Want to Run an Empire — Dave McClure

Venture capitalism is a science — but don’t believe everything you hear. Dave McClure warns that there is a “mind-blowing amount of hubris and BS” in this business, tell all entrepreneurs why they must support their premises with rigorous data analysis.

Dave McClure is an angel investor and the Founder of 500 Startups, which has invested in over 1,500 technology startups (including Credit Karma, Twilio, SendGrid, and Wildfire Interactive), positioning him as a key stakeholder in the multi-trillion dollar tech industry.

The Top Mistake New Writers Make — Sam Freedman

Earnest Hemingway’s advice to writers was simple: ““All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Sam Freedman is of a similar mindset, advising new writers to simply tell their story as they would to a friend sitting across the table. The top trap new writers fall into? “Thinking that you have to bludgeon the reader with your own words and with your own rhetorical fireworks and devices.”

Sam Freedman is an award-winning author, columnist, and professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where a large percentage of students of his novel-writing class have gone on to publish books.

The Politics of Hip Hop and Rap in America — Ellen Gorman

Georgetown Professor Ellen Gorman illuminates the intricate history of hip hop and rap and the American political landscape over the past 30 years. Originating in the Bronx the early 1970s, the hip hop movement represented an expression of rebellion and discontent with roots in African American communities experiencing urban poverty. The American public has long associated hip hop with African American communities, yet the genre of rap has experienced some of its highest popularity among white suburbia since the late 1990s. Ellen helped us explore the question: How do subcultural art movements influence our cultural climate in America and society at large?

Ellen Gorman is a Professor of English at Georgetown University.

Here’s What the Ancient Chinese Philosophers Say about Free Will  — Michael Puett

Does free will exist? It’s an age-old debate, and one we tend to think about in terms of a dichotomy: absolute free will vs. absolute determinism (the belief that our thoughts, actions, and behavior are controlled by purely neurological processes). Michael Puett turns to ancient chinese philosophers for his answer, positing that perhaps neither answer is true. “Think, on the contrary, of the world as these endless connections, and everything is endlessly affecting everything else — often poorly — but therefore in a potentially changeable way…. You can train yourself to respond better, to alter better, to begin working with those around you in a different way, affecting those around you in a different way — and that’s where real agency lies… that’s how you begin altering the world around you.”

Michael Puett is a professor of Chinese History at Harvard University and the author of The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life.

Ambassador Reveals a Post-Election Path to Clarity — Daniel Kurtzer

Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, talks about the future of U.S. foreign policy. With insights gleaned from decades spent in the highest echelons of the State Department, Kurtzer says our country must truly embody the values we champion. “You have to demonstrate, on the ground, that we are one people with 300 million viewpoints.”

Daniel Kurtzer is the former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel. He is currently a leading professor at Princeton University, and co-author of The Peace Puzzle: America’s Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989–2011.

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