One of the biggest challenges of our generation is not the lack of advice, but the overabundance of advice that sometimes point us to entirely different directions.
|Jul 1||Public post|| 2|
“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
I shared this quote with some of my closest friends. What connected us in the first place is our eagerness to create. Like how mothers can empathize with each others, creators all go through similar labor. It’s the antidote to envy, and my first lesson for empathy.
New York is a city of actions.
I've been to a few events where the founders of some hip brands shared their success stories. They boasted having said yes to every opportunity that came in their way and taking every meeting to optimize for their chance for success.
"Never be afraid to ask and reach out!"
The eyes of the young crowd lit up as if there was something spiritual about what the panelists just preached. Maybe they came to this event hoping to have their life changed, or perhaps they just want to gather enough motivation to send out another email.
When I meet someone whose schedule is jam-packed with coffee chats and events one after the other, I hear the soundtrack "Someone in the Crowd" from La La Land playing in the back of my mind.
Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The one to finally lift you off the ground
Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
If you're the someone ready to be found
The tech community has explicitly expressed strong opposition to this approach of career development. They advocate, instead, for deep, high-quality, uninterrupted work. They specifically call networking and conferences useless, without recollecting that it's probably through stumbling upon someone either physically or virtually that their minds have been shaped and changed.
Many people talk about body inclusivity and the definition of beauty. We once glorified the Victoria Secret angels, and now it's the six-packed, glowing skin, and a big butt that's en vogue. I think more people should also be talking about success inclusivity. Right now it's the self-made, creative, and rule-defying entrepreneur that is successful, but not long ago it's an organizational man that's able to crack the code of the corporate ladder and grinds day and night. Soon it may be the stay-at-home dad who is a freelancer but also a part-time fitness instructor and a Vlogger. Just like we can never catch up with the idea of beauty, so we have to accept our own body, we have to be at ease with our own definition of success.
One of the biggest challenges of our generation is not the lack of advice, but the overabundance of advice that sometimes point us to entirely different directions. Titles, accomplishments, and recognitions daze our own aspirations. When Forbes 30 under 30 lists was released last year, I was at the PUBLIC hotel lounge that's turned into a co-working space with cocktails. Just at a glance, three out of five people were sophisticatedly switching tabs between LinkedIn and the Forbes list, dissecting the profile of each of the nominees. I could hear my loud sigh. Truly a moment of our time.
The truth is that we may want what they look like now, but what how they work to get there. We may desire their impact but may not want to become them as individuals. A helpful way to check is to read their writings, if they share any. Why did they make a career change? Why did they start a company? What problem are they trying to solve in this world? Someone from a completely different field can turn out to be more inspiring by a leader in your own field.
Last summer, I confessed my struggle to my manager as I was struggling to find fulfillment working at Facebook. I felt like I wasn’t solving a real problem.
After a long pause, she said something very kind, but simultaneously very scary, and very real: "you can do anything."
The twitter that I saw this morning gave me the same feeling:
This is the outcome of a generation of being able to be anything. As the definition of success evolves and diversifies, the actions to get there also look different for everyone. The “hustle porn” narrative of having to go through struggles and pain and being an asshole to get to where you want to be has been demystified by many successful founders, but in reality it’s not easy at all. Going after what you want can feel like the whole universe is preventing you from doing so. To hustle or not to hustle? The answer to that question is probably to do the best at the things that genuinely interest you so that you are okay the loneliness, the misunderstanding, and still being kind to the people around you.
And here I am, fully aware of the ability to be anything, floating and drowning in this obscurity. By the end of the day, the challenge is practicing radical self-awareness. The fear of self deception and not living a meaningful life hit us a lot earlier than the usual mid-life crisis.
One sure path to alleviate anxiety is to make progress, but the two main things that I make sure I have an answer to before acting: what to work on and how to work.
They sound deceivingly simple, but I bet if I ask most people about those two things, they wouldn't tell me an answer that really aligns with what they are currently working on right now.
In reality, finding meaningful problems to solve requires diligence (getting so good at something, so you have options), courage (making necessary changes in life), and patience (trying out different things before finding the spark). I've observed that most people spend way too much time on how they work, over-optimizing for productivity hacks to get tasks done. What’s more effective is actually to work on something you care deeply about, not what people around you care about (if they happen to be the same, then you find your people!) I'm still tweaking this thing every day, and I believe I'm getting closer.
In terms of how to work, actually the simpler the better. I divide my time into 25-minute uninterrupted blocks that have four categories: creating, working, connecting, and learning. I allocate what matters to me the most first, which is creating. I do at least 4 blocks of creating a day. Sometimes it goes to 8 blocks.
Creating is writing, designing, making, opening up. It's what's closest to my heart and closets to my dream of being able to unlock people's creative potential.
Connecting is to connect with like-minded individuals, and I only meet with people when I have a specific idea or issue I want to pick their brains about. I try to minimize meeting just for general advice (both as a receiver and a giver).
Working is providing service to others. I actually love my work, but the danger is the distractions that endless emails and research may "feel" productive but are actually low impact tasks.
Learning is also necessary to fuel for my soul, but as the above three all teach me valuable lessons, skill learning (from Coursera, Masterclass, or reading) become a luxury when I am busy, but I still try to fit in at least one block a day.
Like the illustration above, I only have that many blocks a day, and allocating my time and energy this way has made me do a lot less but got a lot more done. For me, there’s no such thing as professional development, as I see my work as a part of my personal development. Talk to me if you are also thinking about a new way of personal development for the Information Age. I'm currently creating an experience around that area, I would love to hear what you think.
What caught my attention this week in venture is a new fund called Vice Ventures that raised $25 mil and explicitly invest in early stage companies in industries like cannabis, sextech, psychedelics, and CBD, areas many traditional funds avoid due to the “vice clauses”.
The most interesting about this news to me is the manifesto that the founder Catharine Dockery wrote:
In a world where the most mundane of companies can cause social harm, is it simpler for us to look for evil in companies which make products that society disapproves of? The hunt for morally satisfying investments is challenging enough without reducing all vice companies to the same level. Not being evil should be about more than the product a company produces — it should be about how they plan to operate and, most importantly, how they interact with their consumers.
The challenge of defining evil, then, is one of the most central ideas of vice investing. I have spent a great deal of time working to define how morals will influence our investment strategy.
In place of a single statement, I’ve created several rules which I try to use as bare guidelines, backed up by a more intuitive sense of how companies and products influence society in a positive or negative way.
She then lays out some standards the firm establishes:
1) Good investments have founders and leaders who are ethical, open, and honest.
2) Good vice products are created for, marketed to, and consumed by consenting, responsible, and understanding adults who have power over their decisions.
3) Good vice products keep their consumers informed of how they may be affected by them.
4) Good vice companies care about their customers, and have real-world expectations for their behavior.
I’m just as intrigued by their investment plan as the ethical debate that the fund will inspire in the future.
Some workout musings… 💦
I went all galaxy brain in the gym the other day, so I jot these down in my Notes app.
Strength, power and endurance are all forms of muscular ability. While excelling in some sports requires a greater proportion of one type of muscular ability, most sports require all three.
Your ability to move weight, move it with speed and continue moving it for extended periods of time will help you be a better all-around athlete. A comprehensive training program includes phases that improve all three.
I took this straight out of livestrong.com, because I recently realized how I’m extremely good at endurance when it comes to fitness, and very poor at power.
Then I randomly applied the same metrics to my career, and I've recently been trying to model my self development that way.
Strength: strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert maximal force against resistance.
Strength in career: ability to make large impact, usually leveraged by people you work with or the place you work for.
Power: power is the ability to move weight with speed. Power is explosiveness.
Power in career: ability to get something done super well, efficiently, and effectively. This is mostly leveraged by daily training and honing of technical skills.
Endurance: endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert sub-maximal force against resistance for an extended period of time.
Endurance in career: ability to stuck with it when things get shitty. This is leveraged by the mental toughness one develops through experience or mental practice (like meditation).
To be an all-star, we need to work on all three, but we also need to be aware of where our natural advantages lie.
I came across how many copies of these books got sold the year they got published.
This is my kind of self help content.
I also learned two interesting terms. Both link to very interesting reads.
DTC businesses are Bonsai Brands. They look very like big successful businesses. But they are a lot smaller and don’t grow beyond a certain size.
A term to describe the upper middle class shopper and the HENRY ('High Earner Not Rich Yet') set and the coveted target audience for literally all the Bonsai Brands as well as large businesses like Walmart and Amazon.
A community that brings together impact-driven thinkers and makers.
Reply if you want contribute to this or just want to be friends. I’m looking for individuals who are passionate about defining what the future of this community could look like.
That’s it. I love you. 💙
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