🌈 ✨ vol. 21 / is having a vision overrated? /

The pursuit feels much less like a chase but more like a pilgrimage.

“It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.” 

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Hello beautiful people — 

In my last newsletter, I mentioned writing about my vision on the margin of a notebook. Few of you immediately asked what that vision is for me and how to find a vision to pursue.

Visionaries have reached their heroic status for their prescient insights and relentless pursuits in a society that idolizes self-determinism. They seem to possess the special ability to peek into the future and get to take part in creating it. An original and inspiring vision is scarce, elusive, and is by nature a better alternative of our current condition. These mythical qualities have made being a visionary so unattainable yet attractive.

The institutional language of our time, over-embellished by corporates and mainstream media, leverage grandiose rhetorics to create banalities that sound more normative, factual, and urgent than they actually are (any major conference, university website, or billboards in the bay area). It’s even more anxiety-inducing when our peers show up in the press announcing their ambitious vision statements — to democratize x, to eliminate y, to revolutionize z. When we subconsciously benchmark our own aspirations to these statements, they start to seem rather insignificant and trivial, so many people end up deciding that having a vision is just not the thing for them.

I found three most common mindsets among my smart and capable friends:

  1. accepting one's limitation and becoming complacent: "I don't think I have that kind of vision and drive, so it's okay just to be working at a large firm that defines the vision for me."

  2. resorting to cynicism or nihilistic beliefs: "well all of these visions are lies that corporates tell; talking about vision is gimmicky and unrealistic.”

  3. motivated by short-term pseudo-vision that’s in fact just winning a game with an artificial scoreboard: “My vision is to make some list before I turn 30.”

We can say that vision may really not be that important when it comes to the execution of an idea. Especially in our time where ideas are in abundance yet great execution is in such scarcity. That’s why many so-called “visionaries” ended up spending their time giving TED talks. With that being said, many can reach success by working hard and being lucky (being at the right place at the right time), but those who end up living the most fulfilling and meaningful lives are the ones who are making things that align with their internal compass. The mindsets above significant decrease the probability of creating the impact they could’ve had if they’ve spent more time reflecting on and cultivating their own vision.

Sam Altman, the chairman of Y Combinator and co-chairman of OpenAI, wrote in one of his posts:

“People have an enormous capacity to make things happen. A combination of self-doubt, giving up too early, and not pushing hard enough prevents most people from ever reaching anywhere near their potential...Ask for what you want. You usually won’t get it, and often the rejection will be painful. But when this works, it works surprisingly well.”

I think Altman has a better definition of “vision” here: having a vision is “to ask for what you want.” If there’s a version of the world that would be better for the people or community you care deeply about, then there’s probably a way to get there. This should be a problem that you are too familiar with and being skin in the game for all of its joy and suffering; this qualifies and legitimizes you to make the situation better. The longer we wait to make that better version a reality, the longer those problems will remain, and I try to ask myself daily: am I making things happen?

Thinking about what you want is a humbling exercise. We'll have to calibrate our reality and upgrade ourselves continually. We want to accept that meaningful work is extremely obscure and uncomfortable and fall in love with the struggle. The pursuit feels much less like a chase but more like a pilgrimage.

I guess now it’s a good time to jump back to the question that some of you ask: what is my vision? To be honest, I don’t have a singular, clear-cut vision, but I do have a list of things that I want to make happen, and they continue to evolve and become more descriptive and specific. One of them is my belief that everyone can effectively construct a narrative-driven vision that leads to a more meaningful career and life.

There are still much more on that I’d like to dig deeper, but this is getting a bit long. So I’m going to take a pause here, and leave the rest to future letters.

Until then, keep dreaming.


Image result for kin euphorics

Kin Euphorics

My friend Albert (@albertdong_) told me about this beautiful beverage that claims to disrupt the alcohol industry.

Intrigued by its beautiful branding and the too-good-to-be-true promise it delivers: “All Bliss, No Booze. Elevate your state without the hangover.” I dug a bit deeper and found out, not surprisingly, that most of these things haven’t been supported by hard scientifically evidence. However, from hearing the reviews from real users, this does give you the buzz and make you feel good.

The food & beverage industry right now is quietly (at least for tech people) making waves in the consumer space. What’s encouraging is the continuing innovations in healthier alternatives driven by consumers’ demand to live more intentionally.

I can see how the innovative food brands can leverage direct-to-consumer distribution and alternative offline points of sale to integrate more seamlessly into our everyday experience.

I’ve stopped drinking for almost two years now (besides occasional red wine), but I’d like to give this a shot for the next cozy hangout with friends.

The Rise of Supertemp

Many corporate lifers are ditching their 80-hour workweek, and clearing their schedules for more meaningful assignments through project-based “gig” work. HBR calls these peeps supertemps, and they make freelancing look like the new American dream.

Studies show that employees have become less loyal and trustworthy to companies as employers have shown less loyalty and trustworthiness to their workers, and “the supertemp market will offer a viable platform for highly skilled people who crave flexibility but want to stay in the game.”

The pay of supertemps is usually comparable to that of a salaried position, if not more (the number of freelancers who make more than $100k a year grew to around 3.3m in 2018 -- up 70% from 2011).

“The nascent state of the market for senior independent talent is somewhat analogous to the market for electric cars. Electric may offer a better mousetrap for the long term, but it can’t flourish without an infrastructure of home- and road-based battery chargers and certain policies in place—such as a higher price on carbon.”

This new trend will require solutions for building the new kind of community (talk to me about this), having health/tax infrastructure in place, and a smarter talent management software (or this!!).

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

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This is one of my favorite fictions in 2019, and I’ve been telling all my friends about it.

It’s an epic-quest story set in the dystopian America but a beautifully-written philosophical inquiry into identity, control, dependence, and the state of the world with increasing inequality.

One of the central questions raised in the book is whether being an individual makes a difference anymore, and what do we give up when we possess full autonomy? We are introduced to the protagonists Fan and Reg by name, and their stories are constructed and told through the nameless collective “we”, who believe that everything should be accomplished for the collective identity.

Don’t wanna spoil too much here. If you’re a fan of political and science fiction, dystopian narrative, and poetic prose… you’d love this.

Some of my favorite quotes:

  • It is 'where we are' that should make all the difference, whether we believe we belong there or not.” 

  • We feel ever obliged by everday charges and tasks. They conscript us more and more. We find world enough in a frame. Until at last we take our places at the wheel, or wall, or line, having somewhere forgotten that we can look up.

  • This is how we were meant for each other. How we make our living. The lives of frustrated poets and imposters. This, too, how the love works and then doesn't: a mutual spectacle of imagination. 

I've working on some major upgrades for this newsletter becoming a community to discover and connect impact-driven makers who are navigating the future.

Reply & let me know if you or anyone you know want to be a part of this. I’ll reach out for a short interview.

I love you. 💙

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