Mettleful

@airjoshb

Short thoughts on being, doing and becoming

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My Favorite Books of 2017

January 15, 2018

I read more books in 2017 (46) than any other year that I can remember, nearly 17,000 pages and the average book length was over 400 pages. 2017 was also the first year where the amount of ebooks outnumbered the physical books I read. While I still prefer something that you can hold in your hand, feel the paper and turn the pages, it is practically impossible to get over the deals, storage and convenience offered by Amazon and others. Overall, I read at least twice as much as previous years and spent almost half as much to do it.

My strategy in purchasing books is to pretty much buy anything that jumps out — books are the world's cheapest form of education — denying yourself ten or twenty dollar purchases for something that can take you to a whole other world or level of intelligence is silly. Thanks to the never ending supply of Kindle deals, most of my books in 2017 cost less than five dollars and included things I would have likely never bought at a bookstore like the biographies of Elon Musk and Richard Branson and Jade Dragon Mountain, a mystery set in 18th century China.

Many of my physical books were purchased at our fantastic local bookshop, Bookshop Santa Cruz, where I also attended events from authors like Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Andy Weir and Robin Sloan. Additionally, I am always on the lookout for used copies of books I've always wanted or books I love to gift, like The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson, which I bought two copies of in 2017. Finding a great book to share is one of my favorite things and my experience this year also sparked a potential idea for a passion project.

My increased reading habit was molded having spent too much time in a hospital and months of intense recovery in 2017—by the time I was finally in the clear, I was spending an hour a day minimum in good book. As I go back over my list, I am reminded of the year's journey and it makes me even more excited for the year to come to think of all that I will learn thanks to other people's hard work, research and imagination.

Non-fiction Favorites


Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall
I am not sure I would have ever read this unique book by the author of Born to Run had it not been for a couple of other "rules" I have for buying books – if the physical copy is close to the same price or less than the Kindle book, go for the real thing and when I am buying things on Amazon, I will often dip into my wish list and add a book to my order.

Natural Born Heroes is really two books, one following the footsteps of a band of World War II resistance fighters in an attempt to do what no one in that great war could accomplish, rattle Hitler and kidnap one of his generals. The other story, interwoven into the journey, is a search to understand the extraordinary human potential that allows some folks the ability to accomplish heroic feats.


Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000-Meter Peak by Maurice Herzog
I spent an abnormal amount of time (for me) reading biographies and stories of people who have accomplished incredible things in the time they were given. Annapurna is a first-hand account of a French climbing team attempting to be the first to climb a peak over 26,000 feet. The story is perhaps the most jaw-dropping and gripping human tale I've ever heard of. Not only were Herzog's team the first to climb this eleveation, they did it in 1950, without the modern gear, sensors and data now available. What struck me the most from their story (and many of the others I gravitated toward in 2017) was no matter how destructive the end result was – and for the two that summited, it would be the last climb of their lives – the accomplishment was not just the highlight of their life, but they would go back in a heartbeat to repeat it, even facing the same consequences.


The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Both books were on most people's top reads for 2016 and they did not disappoint. Each takes an incredibly complex subject and creates a vastly informative and entertaining read. I read The Gene while in Stanford Hospital having procedures related to an autoimmune condition and had just finished Sapiens before going in. Talk about an intimate genetic and human story!

I don't have highlights from The Gene as I have the physical book and read mostly in a hospital bed (I suspect I will re-read these books often in the years to come), but here are some "stop dead in your tracks" statements from Sapiens,

"Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous."

"Just try to imagine how difficult it would have been to create states, or churches, or legal systems if we could speak only about things that really exist, such as rivers, trees and lions."

"We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."

"The idea of progress is built on the notion that if we admit our ignorance and invest resources in research, things can improve."

"Millions of years of evolution have designed us to live and think as community members. Within a mere two centuries we have become alienated individuals."

"Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin"

Science Fiction Favorites


Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past) by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
While I did read and enjoy fiction books from other genres, I will almost always choose something that leans toward "hard" sci-fi. I read fiction almost exclusively in the evening or on the weekend as the fantastical nature decouples most of our "thinking" processes and engages our default mode network, imagination and dreaming, which is perfect before bed, or when you want to relax and not think about work or projects. Death's End is the conclusion to the Three Body Problem, which is one of the most ambitious works of fiction ever written — Imagine Neil Stephenson and Frank Herbert were one person from China and that should get you in the mood. The Three Body series was also my first time reading science fiction from a different cultural perspective, which, having spent time working with and traveling in China, was a real treat. These books also introduced me to Ken Liu, who's translation work alone should win awards, and has his own body of work which I devoured in 2017.


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor was born in the US to two Nigerian immigrants and while classified as a "young adult" novella, Binti captures a world of spectacular imagination with crystal, technicolor clarity in under 100 pages. The third book in the Binti series will be released in 2018 and I look forward to reading much more of Nnedi's work in the coming year.


Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Doctorow is one of my favorite humans (which I was able to tell him at a book signing this year), with his thinking on the future and pop culture, his activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and his pragmatism with the Creative Commons work. Walkaway is not your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic novel, but instead offers hope and humanity despite the collapse of society. This book has echoed through my thoughts regularly since finishing it, calling me to read it again and I have even gifted it to my teenage daughters.


Nexus (the Nexus Trilogy) by Ramez Naam
Nexus is one of those "how did I miss this?" books that was completely off my radar until a Kindle deal offered all three books for just a few bucks before I went in for surgery. One thing that does not happen in a hospital is rest – you are woken every four hours to check of your vitals – and during a two week stay, where I underwent eight procedures under anesthesia, I read Naam's razor sharp trilogy. Despite being in my own altered state, I could not put these books down and was totally absorbed by Naam's deft storytelling and the incredible depth of knowledge he brings to his writing as a technologist.

Health Favorites


The Telomere Effect by Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel
Telomere length is one of the most important indicators of health and resilience and has been found to correlate strongly with life expectancy. The Telomere Effect is a totally approachable text by the women who have done most of the research on the subject and Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn received the Nobel Prize for discovering telomerase and the role of telomeres in the aging process.

The biggest takeaways from the book is that your reaction to stress, the environment you choose to live in and the relationships you cultivate are the key to "enduring wellness" and thus longer life. The length of our telomeres — the primary protection for your cells — is directly affected by these factors and can actually be built back up by making changes to your life and well-being.

"[damage to your teleomeres] is not just from experiencing a stressful event, it’s also from feeling threatened by it, even if the stressful event hasn’t happened yet."

Someone once told me "worrying is praying for what you don't want", and that is proven in the length of your telomeres. Things like having a life purpose and volunteering also relate to longer telomeres, lower insulin sensitivity and less belly fat. As you can imagine, exercise plays prominently and aerobic endurance and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) had the most effect on telomeres, but perhaps most importantly,

"the more categories of exercise—from walking to biking to strength training—that people engaged in, the longer their telomeres."


The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek
I have been in and out of ketosis for over two years after finding it had a massive impact on my Crohn's disease, inflammation and even my athletic performance on a bike. This book took everything to a whole different level, offering some serious science on how to craft a diet with little reliance on carbs while being very active.

Here are some mind blowing things to think about in the context of all of the other "conventional wisdom" on diet and exercise,

"Peak aerobic power, also called VO2max, is negatively associated with biomarkers of inflammation like interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein. This implies that reducing inflammation facilitates cellular energy metabolism and increases work performance."

"Consuming even small amounts of carbohydrate after exercise rapidly decreases the release of fatty acids from fat stores and oxidation of fat in the muscle, thereby interfering with keto-adaption, plus also diminishing the beneficial effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity and other cardio-metabolic risk markers."

"A provocative way to think about ketones is that they are a clean-burning fuel, in that their production and oxidation appears to result in less generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) compared to other metabolic substrates like glucose and glycogen."

More recently in the news, research is coming out showing exercise and low fat diets will not increase weight loss, this statement from the book was published in 2012.

"What would happen if the public was told that, for many of us, exercise doesn’t speed your metabolism and that it doesn’t do that much to speed weight loss?"


Head Strong by Dave Asprey
I went into 2017 predicting the year would be focused on mitochondrial health which proved to come true, with Google showing nearly twice the search traffic compared to only a few years ago and dozens of new books on the subject of neurology and mitochondria. If you are familiar with Bulletproof Coffee or The Bulletproof Diet book, you won't be surprised by Asprey's style as he tackles how to increase your mitochondria and thus your energy, focus and health. As Dave himself would say, "if you want to kick more ass in all areas of your life", this is a great resource.

What Else?

It is difficult to stop listing books that I enjoyed as there were only a few that felt like weren't worth reading. As with all of the content I consume, I try to find the best sources from people that I believe are smarter than me and are really putting in the work of their craft. If you want to see what else I got into in 2017, from mysticism to startups and personal development, you can see the whole list here.

Favorite Podcasts of 2017

January 10, 2018

I listened to over 70 hours of podcasts in 2017 from about a dozen different podcasts (many of which I only listened to once). I spent far more time reading books than any other medium for entertainment or enlightenment, but I also found that not having a great (read: simple and effective) app after switching to Android made me far less likely to listen to a podcast. My favorite listens from the year tread some familiar territory with a few new people and concepts coming on my radar. Many of these I could (and did) listen to more than once.

People I'd most like to sit down for a pot of pu erh with:

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/outdoor-adventurer-jimmy-chin-podcast-interview
I first heard Jimmy Chin on Tim Ferriss's podcast when Meru was coming out and he has since become one of my favorite people to follow out in the world. This interview on the MindBodyGreen podcast pushes Jimmy toward "yoda-like" status with incredibly thoughtful and thought provoking material.

https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2017/02/naval-ravikant-reading-decision-making/
I have also heard Naval Ravikant speak on several occasions, but this podcast on the Knowledge Project is one for all time—I have listened to it several times already, as I went through surgery and then months of complications and trips to Stanford.

My favorite stories

https://blog.bulletproof.com/listen-to-your-gut-decide-your-own-destiny-naveen-jain-452/
Naveen Jain is making the rounds talking about his latest company Viome, but this talk on the Bulletproof Podcast really allows his philosophy in business and solving big problems to come out, which reminded me of Elon Musk and Richard Branson, two people who's biographies I enjoyed this year.

https://tim.blog/2017/05/26/phil-keoghan/
File Phil Keoghan under one of the most interesting people you may never had noticed if you just saw him on The Amazing Race. I am still obsessed with the idea of his project, Le Ride, wherein he rode (and filmed) a Tour de France route from 1928 on a single speed bike (right up my alley). I somehow missed a screening of the film here in Santa Cruz and wish it were just available to buy already.

https://tim.blog/2017/09/06/stewart-copeland/
It should surprise no one that Tim Ferriss continues to put out some of the best content in the world on discovering how people tick. With Stewart Copeland we were treated to a fantastic dive into one of the world's most interesting musicians and one of the most powerful rock bands of all time, The Police. Incidentally, listening to this led me to discover that the original Police albums are some of the best music to ride your bike up Highway 1 to.

Podcasts that upgraded my brain:

http://neurohacker.com/define-creativity-dr-scott-barry-kaufman/
Neurohacker Collective is doing some of the most interesting work in biohacking and human perfomance right now with their product, Qualia, and their recently developed podcast is pound for pound the most satisfying intellectually of any podcast I listen to. If they could figure out how to do better audio (no breathing and mouth noises), this would be my favorite podcast. This talk about creativity with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is so mind blowing I had to pull over, listen, re-listen and then re-listen and then take notes to take it all in.

https://tim.blog/2017/06/04/nick-szabo/
The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency with Nick Szabo, Naval Ravikant and Tim Ferriss could be the most informative podcast of all time. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are some of the most misunderstood and complex topics out there and despite being nearly three hours long, this trio manage to make an utterly fascinating discussion for all levels of listeners.

Podcasts that could change your life
https://www.ihmc.us/stemtalk/episode-43/
Ketogenic talk took over the world of health and biohacking in 2017. Despite having been largely ketogenic for a couple of years, my own application and understanding got a big upgrade this year, in no small part due to a book called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. On this podcast with the IHMC in Florida, Jeff Volek goes into all things ketogenic and touches on a bold goal to really impact type 2 diabetes.

https://blog.bulletproof.com/age-backwards-hacking-telomeres-with-stress-dr-elissa-epel-436/
One of my other favorite books for health this year was The Telomere Effect by Dr. Elissa Epel and Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn. On this podcast with Dave Asprey of Bulletproof, Epel gets into telomeres and what she and her partner (a Nobel Prize winner for her work in discovering telemerase) have learned about resiliency at a cellular level.

https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/qigong-101/?_ga=2.82712534.173617827.1515534882-1838679386.1477017688
Wherein Ben Greenfield tries to hang on to his core audience by trying not to be too "woo woo" with QiGong master Robert Peng. The most incredible part of this story, however, is my own:

A couple of days after listening to this podcast I was sitting at my most frequented haunt, Hidden Peak Tea House in Santa Cruz, with some friends and there was a table across from us where I heard a Chinese man speaking with his table companions, facing away from me. I instantly recognized Robert's voice from Ben's podcast and tried to convince my friends that I knew who he was. When his group got up to leave, I approached him and asked if he was, in fact, Master Peng, which he confirmed! He was amazed that I had recognized him solely from hearing him speak a single time and he was in the area from his home in New York teaching at a facility near by. I have since read his book, Master Key, and have integrated some qigong into my daily practice.

Haiku from 2017

January 3, 2018

2017 started off heading toward a major, three part, surgery that led to spending nearly half of the year under the direct care of my Stanford surgeon for complications. With a miraculous turnaround, the second half built up to peak levels of joy, struggle and health.

Many of my haiku are written in a tea house, so there are several that refer to the pu erh I was drinking that day.

The final section are the haikus I have written after reading, listening or watching something. These get posted on Twitter and Instagram @airjoshb, should you want to follow along.

January
New Year's Meng Fe Shan
Sky giving way to the sun
Some starts aren't easy

Four zero one tea
Trinity playing along
Deep warmth in the rain

The power of faith
is not in God's miracles
but in enduring

What is it you do?
Whatever is calling me,
there's so many songs

Just Unblended Brick,
only all that is and was
Merely everything.

Always deciding,
what to do or doing it.
A binary state.

Inauguration Day
I feel all of you
but my own landscape tending
Peace be to both of us

But now is different!
Though it is also the same,
if you look to see

Am I creating
or having expectations?
Feeling or being?

February
No need to be right
when you feel togetherness
the embrace is right

When you can hold you
the way a hurt child held
you'll know compassion

Four Oh One today
roots rise up, wrap my feet
pulling me to the earth

The door is out there,
getting closer every day
walk or be pulled through

The ferryman comes,
A car crash in slow motion
Witnessing rebirth

Trough a one way door
Immaculate conception
of my own design

My belly transformed
A material tether
tied up to this plane

Scalpel to belly
Started to listen too late
Now engraved

Such a silly boy,
thinking that this all matters.
Only one breath left

Awake with clear mind
blurring edges grow each hour
sight gives way to faith

Jade pulled through the tide
crossing meridian lines
passed from hand to hand

How often do you
inject your singular thoughts
into another's?

Right hand of faith,
holds the channel open, clear.
The left holds your cheek

If you have the chance
to speak to your younger self
listen more than talk

The tea plays again,
notes dancing anew each time.
Dance between earth, sun.

Am I fighting time
or making a quantum jump
to a different thread?

Most days I feel pain,
Sometimes I know the day's hurt
Some days I find out.

Last day of limbo
take one last look around
it's given you much

March
Internal fire
outstrips physical body.
Breathe. give it away.

Time it matters not,
Frequency and recency
Bind us to moments

Not restoration
of the normalcy gone by.
Joy, vitality.

May
This crystal we shared
Rings out across dimensions
calling you to me

Your warming spirit
Spins up in my consciousness
We are not apart

June
Warrior back from war
Just wants left alone to sit,
End our own battle

Lay down the weapons
you will wield against yourself
embrace your goodness

Transformational
Like a cocoon opening
Dragon revealing

When life rushes in
will you still gulp at its flow
or sip what you need?

The world in language
flows past me garbled, foreign
The eyes speak to me

The world is busy
Everyone's doing something
But few are content

July
Everyone, The One
Employ our imagined self
Only in defense

August
The sky blue and clear
some days there may be dark clouds
but blue underneath

Thought, a time machine
no way to think the present
a moment unfolds

Its only Monday
I had a bike this morning
And a friend last night

People are drowning
taking their life, stealing bikes
Don't get too worked up

September
You are you right now
Improvement needs to compare.
Better, just a dream

A feather of hope
A messenger on the road
Native blood coursing

October
Memory is bust
Right now is relational
Future is our gift

Opinions held loose,
Active imagination
toward the future

December
Our emotion wave
Does not reside in the heart
Cocktail of the mind

Resilient like bull
Strength, short-term expenditure
Embodied being

#haikureview
Lights, camera, action.
Lifetimes in every moment
Pay attention. Choose.
#LaLaLand

If poems were people
or a town in New Jersey,
no reason to rhyme.
#PatersonMovie

Sans any class or wit,
Heist in southern slow motion
Awkward all around
#LoganLucky

Arresting sweetness
Head of a pin in the sea
The soul knows its home.
#Lion

You can probably guess
Lichen, vampires, nothing new
Selene's cool is gone
#UnderworldBloodWars

The film has run through
waiting for the words to come
until then, just feel
#Silence

Belief, suffering.
When faith uncovers pride,
Which will you lay down?
#Silence

Actors breathe devout
Visuals become scripture
Master at peak craft
#Silence

Post-humanism
Injected enlightenment
The power end game
#Nexus

The world has moved on
Dying mutants, breed anew
Constraints layered in
#LoganNoir

Franchise origins,
muddle a fun monster flick.
Zombie sidekick fail
#TheMummy

Suffered the ailment
Resisting faith as Judah
Built on chariots
#BenHur

Kinda raise your fist,
Relevant not urgent.
From bankrolled prophets
#ProphetsofRage

The story between skits
Characters doing their schtick
Is good for dollars
#GuardiansOfTheGalaxy2

Her sacrifice, great,
Dancing on justice's stage
Knows no other way
#deloresmovie

Bit rough off the line
Animation without peer
Shines out on the road
#Cars3

The fight no one saw
Maintains China's secret Fu
Whitewashed plot instead
#BirthOfTheDragon

For funnyman helm,
irreverent won't cut it
So how long's the leash?
#TheOrville

Wanting it to end
Worst Austin Powers movie
Poor Sir Elton John
#KingsmanTheGoldenCircle

No sign of his code
For Alba you'd do the same
Clever, not smart
#Mechanic2

dev-opsecpunk tale
where hopeful dystopia
goes post-scarcity
#Walkaway

King as young adult
hoping for director's cut
with more fire and teeth
#TheDarkTower

The story between skits
Characters doing their schtick
Is good for dollars
#GuardiansOfTheGalaxy2

Capn jack sparrow
Better than he otta be
Black Pearl rides again
#deadmentellnotales

creator creates
benevolent or selfish?
mom can not abide
#mothermovie

Driven by sharp wit
Written more stage style than screen
Like Mamet grindhouse
#BabyDriver

Inspiring. Timely.
Let the triumphs of the past
fuel future struggles.
#HiddenFigures

China, New Zealand,
US, Canada et al
Who's Great Wall is it?
#GreatWallMovie

Grand scale, kitchen sink
Furious without the fun
New blue eyes can't fix
#fateofthefurious

Vision with no bounds
French sensibility lens
Could watch for hours
#ValerianMovie

Humanely super
Gal gardot is a wonder
Rescuing the past
#WonderWoman

The Wall's coming down
Not before she has her way
Almost too clever
#AtomicBlonde

Editing aside,
We could use some more magic
Less deviciveness
#FantasticBeasts

More teenage fodder
Or a cultural statement
Like totally both
#Nerve

Not Snakes on a Plane
But is drinking game worthy
And shit will go wrong
#HitmansBodyguard

Simmering thriller
Sheridan is three for three
Go home hug your kids
#WindRiver

Monsters are out there
Kong gets a turn at hero
Monarch's not done yet
#kongskullisland

Gods and mortals play,
in intricate fantasy.
Politics, heart, war.
#GraceofKings

The Boogeyman's back
More wit, more kills, more pencils
Get that man a gun
#JohnWick2

slow, satisfying
flirts with Malick's or Weir's eye
but doesn't transcend
#LostCityOfZ

Not bad Chinese film,
Anemic Hollywood film,
Needed Chinese script
#GreatWallMovie

'Oh Two on repeat
Who was asking for these films?
Perhaps just their stars.
#ResidentEvil

Style without soul
Animation more human
Humans try too hard
#GhostInTheShell

Growing with each film,
a fifty year old franchise
is hollywood's best.
#WarForThePlanetOfTheApes

Hard not to fanboy
post-modern vision, seeding
lush modernity
#BladeRunner2049

If morning phase was
A newborn experience
Colors, a toddler
#beckcolors

David and Walter
The only reason to watch
Two worlds crammed to one
#AlienCovenant

A pressure cooker–
Perseverance in verse,
fills the IMAX screen
#DunkirkMovie

Smart lead with Klingons
Liked it more than The Orville
But worth paying for?
#StarTrekDiscovery

Seeing a new church
laser focused, maniacal
bought America
#TheFounder

Vegas sans Ocean
Taken sans Liam Neeson
Just angry Jamie
#SleeplessMovie

A grand adventure
Branaugh inhabits Poirot,
Transcends absolutes
#murderontheorientexpress

your run of the mill,
annual disaster movie
auf wiedersehen Jack.
#Geostorm

Sadly sophomoric
Sans repetitive babble
Would be a leaflet
#SpysguideToStrategy

Really missed the mark
Requiem for a bat
Anti Ragnarok
#Justiceleague

Sadly sophomoric
Sans repetitive babble
Would be a leaflet
#ASpysGuideToStrategy

Coco reminds us
That what occupies your heart
Connects you as well
#Coco

Moonscape barnburner,
Diverse cast, flattened by pace,
Fun not memorable
#artemis

What I liked: Peter,
Keaton's second best birdman.
But, too marvel-y
#SpiderManHomecoming

Hard not to fanboy
Post-modern vision seeding
Lush modernity
#bladerunner2049

Spellbound mystery
scratching the Qing dynasty
served best with pu erh
#JadeDragonMountain

Pulling at itself
penultimate tug of war
Let the past die out
#StarWarsTheLastJedi

Lyrics are the heart
No biopic confusion
Full of sheen and sham
#TheGreatestShowman

Sensual and sweet
Fairy tale and fable
Science of magic
#ShapeofWater

Efficiency is not the realm of the spirit

December 1, 2017

The paradox of productivity and creativity is such that the former requires a near ruthless approach to distraction and optimization and the latter flourishes in moments of daydreaming, exploration and even kismet.

As things become more efficient they begin to lose a quality of humanity that people identify strongly with. Efficiency is the Toyota Way and while Tesla's engineering is also efficient, the design and attention to detail pushes on our sense of vanity and desire. The Alfa Romeo Guilia, recently awarded MotorTrend Car of the Year, has technical aspects that are flawed in practical use, but the car evokes a distinct feeling of craftsmanship and excitement. This sense of "humanness" is also the difference in how people react to the errily capable and efficient Atlas robot versus Sophia, the world's first robot citizen.

In a world of ever-increasing competition for our attention, distraction has become one of the top enemies and the topic of personal productivity is soaring, calling for more efficiency in our lives. People like David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done, and Derek Sivers suggest an approach of carving out areas of your attention and energy that don't directly feed what your current goals are. The simple message from Sivers is if it isn't a "Hell yeah", its a "no". This approach is wildly effective if employed properly and will ramp your productivity up, but there is a hidden cost in not allowing things through that don't have an immediate connection to what you are focused on—the new, exciting, speculative, maybe even romantic.

Humans have a near infinite capacity for horizontal growth—whatever your industry, job, role, occupation or area of expertise, it can benefit greatly from the knowledge, experience and playfulness that can be gained from seemingly unrelated industries, hobbies or topics. I suggest regularly (not necessarily frequently) examining your daydreaming or things you come back to in your mind, find one thread unrelated to your areas of focus that excites or interests you and allow yourself to follow it. Dive in a bit, swim around and see what is there. Whether you stick to it or not isn't really what matters, what you experience and how that exploration can energize the things that you most value is the opportunity.

Thank you to Cory Doctorow for his piece, How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful), which allowed for several weeks of deep thinking on this topic before writing down my thoughts.

Balance the outputs

November 30, 2017

Work-life balance is an increasingly popular topic as we struggle to feel happy and content with growing levels of stress in our lives and an external world of boundless possibility with no end to what we can consume and create. We talk about this balance as a binary state, but both sides encompass many other areas including our health, extended family, friendships, professional development, finances and more. We measure the balance by the inputs—our time and energy—and we expect that by splitting them up we will achieve the life we want. However, if the outputs—happiness, enthusiasm, fulfillment—are out of balance, it won't matter how much time and energy are given to either side, life will never feel balanced.

The work of a missionary, bus driver, surgeon and CEO are all equally capable of creating a rich life if we engage the practice of that work properly, with the fullness of our experience and talents. Similarly, the attention and activities we engage in with family, friends, and our own health are either contributing to an extraordinary life or not.

Both our work and home lives should feel fulfilling, energizing, joyful, of value to others and feeding our growth and potential. If we optimize for these outputs in all areas of our life, how much time we spend in any single one will be irrelevant and the distinction between them will start to fade.

Courage not confidence

November 29, 2017

Confidence is often attributed with success and being successful and yet it does not always coincide with virtuous behavior or people we also believe to be trustworthy.

Confidence is a sense of self-assurance, bolstered by certainty and that is where things can go off the rails. It is relatively easy to generate feelings as needed to project to ourselves and others that we know what we are doing. The certainty bred from confidence is practically guaranteed to keep someone defending things beyond the time that they have been proven wrong or destructive.

Courage, while closely related in definition to confidence, is actually a step higher up — you can manufacture confidence to get you through, but courage requires digging into something deeper and tapping into a quality of spirit that allows you to face things that may feel dangerous or scary. Courage allows you to step into the unknown, to overcome fear, but it also allows you to admit mistakes.

Confidence is displayed before and during something happens but you can't feel courage until you've actually expressed it. We have all experienced being overconfident and it is easy to spot on others, but I have not ever come across someone who was over-courageous. In order to cultivate courage we need to occasionally go beyond what feels safe, test our mettle and be prepared to own the consequences whether they lined up with our desired outcome or not.

Meditation

November 20, 2017

"while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed." - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá