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Jan/Feb Roundup

The American Life is Killing You (Medium)
The Comfortable Life is Killing You (Medium)
Agnes Martin on How to Be an Artist (Artsy)
Banish ‘Eat Local’ From Your Environmental Playbook (Bloomberg)
Almonds are out. Dairy is a disaster. So what milk should we drink? (The Guardian)
The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake (The Atlantic)

The Uninhabitable Earth
Sapiens
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
4-Hour Workweek
Man’s Search for Meaning
The Bhagavad Gita
The Road

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2020 OKRs

OKRs, or “Objectives and Key Results,” were an integral planning tool during my time at Opendoor. We did these quarterly to align the company top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top around specific goals (Objectives), while setting measurable outcomes (Key Results) to track our progress towards each – an organisational “where do we want to go?” (Objectives) and “how will we get there” (Key Results). I decided to apply these to my personal life in 2020.

OKRs are not for everyone. As my Grandfather put it to me a few weeks ago, “Blake, my goal this year is just to make it to the end upright.” Fair enough 🙂 Or like me last year, sometimes letting things unfold is the way to go. I kept 2019 fairly open-ended outside of training for UTMB. Coming out of 2019, however, I had a clearer picture for where I want to go this year, what space I still want to explore and fill, and how I want to focus my time and energy. In this case, OKRs are a great fit for keeping me focused and pushing me along!

If you are interested in creating some of your own, feel free to use my OKRs and process, described below, for inspiration!

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2020: WILD

Wild is my word for 2020. I came across it twice while flipping through magazines in late November as Andrea, our moms and I began piecing together our Vision Boards for 2020 from cut-up parts of magazines in what has become a fun and creative annual pastime in setting our intentions for the year ahead. As a part of this tradition, we also choose a word for the year – a capstone to our final boards that captures their essence, and our year ahead, in a single word. “Wild” spoke to me.

Already I knew 2020 would include spending time in the mountains of Norway, where Andrea and I had a few weeks prior bought a home to fix-up, as either a summer home or forever home. Our time last summer in a tiny cabin just below the glacier in Bionnassay, France was intimate, cozy, simple and connected to nature in a way that I’ve yearned to get back to ever since leaving, and that Andrea was open to re-discovering in a more permanent way with our home in Norway. The more I read and think, the more I slow down, the more I yearn to be wild, to break free. Of what I am still discovering, but I know at a very deep level I feel most peaceful, most grounded and most connected to everything around me when I am part of nature – part of its pulses and rhythms and equilibriums.

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November Roundup

Pro Skier Trying to Ski Best Routes Before It’s Too Late (Youtube)
We Are Running Out of Air (The Atlantic)
The Sustainability Myth – Interview with Yvon Chouinard (Fast Company)
World thirst for oil keeps growing, with SUVs a key culprit (AP)
Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns (The New Yorker)
I’m a conservative Republican. Climate change is real. (Politico)
Hey, Jeff Bezos: I work for Amazon – and I’m protesting against your firm’s climate inaction (The Guardian)
A relatively painless guide to cutting plastic out of your life (Fast Company)
Partisans Switch Sides in Presidential Attributes Trade-Off (Gallup)
For the first time in history, U.S. billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class last year (Washington Post)
The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You (NYT)
US Income Tax Rates in History (Wikipedia)
The Power of Questions (Farnham Street)
Why Americans Smile So Much (The Atlantic)
The time for horse racing has passed. It’s time to outlaw it. (Washington Post)
Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption (The Atlantic)
Let Trump Destroy Trump (Oped; The New York Times)
America’s current political moment might be so bad that it becomes good – George Will (WP)
To Change a Habit, Get Extreme. Progressively. (Behavioral Scientist)
WeFail: How the doomed Masa Son-Adam Neumann relationship set WeWork on the road to disaster (Fast Company)

for fun…
From leech collectors to knocker-ups, here are 16 weird jobs that no longer exist (Business Insider)
West Slabs of Olympus fast; June 2011 (Youtube)
Nils Frahm – Toilet Brushes – More (Live in London) (Youtube)
Here’s What Fruits And Vegetables Looked Like Before We Domesticated Them (Business Insider)

Also, if you obsess over US Politics (as I do, unfortunately), here are a few podcasts I recommend:

Left, Right & Center (NPR)
Hacks on Tap with David Axelrod and Mike Murphy
The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg 
Shields and Brooks (PBS Newshour)

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

About as opposite as you can get from watching a re-run of Friends, I am still feeling the hangover and lingering headache from this book, the sore feeling in my stomach from having been punched in the gut, repeatedly, over many days. Not since watching The Deer Hunter have I been so deeply affected by a work of fiction or art.

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North follows a group of Australian POWs in WW2, chronicling in riveting and horrifying detail a single day in their lives working on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in the early 1940s, from that point jumping back and forth through through time to also capture their lives leading up to that point, and after, for those who managed to emerge from the war at all. At the center of the story is Dr. Dorrigo Evans, an affable but internally conflicted Australian officer responsible for the 1.000 or so POWs at this particular POW camp, and as with other characters in the book, the prior years that led and shaped him into the person he was on that particular day, and how that day, in all its brutality and inhumanity, shaped him and his life thereafter. There is a love story central to Dorrigo’s life, and to the novel, but for me the themes of war, destiny, empathy, randomness and chance, blind loyalty, redemption, tragedy and loss all speak deepest.

Why would anyone read such a book? For the same reasons that watching too much Friends on repeat numbs the mind and soul, this book sharpens both. It forces you to think and ask questions of yourself, and of society, that you might not otherwise think or take the time to ask. “A good book … leaves you wanting to reread the book” comments Dorrigo early in the book, whereas, he says, “a great book compels you to reread your own soul.” This book will ask you to do just that.

PS – I say all of the above as someone who has watched many a Friends episodes over the years! 🙂

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10 Year Goals

I wrote these down before moving to Spain in 2019. The goals – some vague, some specific – are in no particular order, and unlike past ones, the process and journey are of more import than any end point or destination.

  1. Climb Denali
  2. Run UTMB
  3. Speak Spanish fluently
  4. Play Moonlight Sonata’s three movements
  5. Be a skilled outdoorsman
  6. Have a home in the mountains with a fireplace, wood stove, bookshelves and garden
  7. Entertain with storytelling and conversations
  8. Build and create
  9. Have a small family, prioritizing travel, experiences, non-traditional education & time together
  10. Write a book/memoir

Thinking about who and where I wanted to be in 10-years time – as well as the values and themes I wanted to prioritise over that time – brought into sharp contrast my priorities at the time (work, money, “success,” etc.). But it also highlighted the changes I needed to make in my life if I wanted to prioritise what was truly important to me. After that, it just takes the courage and faith to act.

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August Roundup

Some of what I’ve read, listened to and watched over the past few weeks that I think is worth sharing:

Articles

What if America introduces a wealth tax? (The Economist)
The Minimalist’s Strength Workout (Outside Magazine)
Take Control of Your Learning at Work (Harvard Business Review)
Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think (The Atlantic)
I’m in the 1 Percent. Please, Raise My Taxes. (NYTimes)
Inside Backpage.com’s Viscous Battle with the Feds (Wired)
Pushing the Limits of Human Endurance (NYTimes)
A Musical Prodigy? Sure, but Don’t Call Her ‘a New Mozart’ (NYTimes)
Wework Isn’t a Tech Company; It’s a Soap Opera (The Verge)
They became millionaires and retired at 31. They think you can do the same (The Guardian)

Books

Capital in the 21st Century (Thomas Piketty)
The Danish Way of Parenting (Jessica Alexander & Iben Sandahl)
The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children (Shefali Tsabary)

Podcasts

The Evolution of Success (Rich Roll)
How the Hygiene Hypothesis Works (Stuff You Should Know)
Guide to … The Euro (Talking Politics)

Movies

Mr. Roosevelt (2017)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Music

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Living An Authentic Self

For much of my life, I had a plan for where I was going and goals to chart the way. In my early teenage years, these goals involved racing motocross; in my late teenage years going to a good school and getting a good job; in my twenties, starting my own company. I was never the smartest or most talented person, but I could work hard and had a high threshold for pain, allowing me to continue on when most people would stop. Looking back, I can see how easy it was to get caught up in the goals and the process that made achieving those goals possible, with little thought or reflection as to the deeper forces that got me to that point. Grinding away and routine yield little time and space for reflection, and in many ways those are powerful sources of comfort and solace – a balm coating the deeper questions we could ask ourselves but do not, and providing us with a false-sense of purpose that yields a quality of inevitability to our soldiering on. In the rare moments we do find the time and space to question our path, often pressure and expectations – self-imposed or from the world around us – keep us maintaining the status-quo in our lives.

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Growth Manifesto

I want to be open, curious and fearless. I want to live in the now and to try new things. I don’t want to be a victim or hostage of my past.

I want to be positive and to see the best in people and situations, using each moment, interaction and experience to learn something new.

I want to fill my life with memories and experiences, not things.

I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it, starting with me.

The more I invest in myself, the more I can contribute to others.

I want to surround myself by people who support me and help me grow. I want to give in kind.

I want to give without expectation or desire for something in return.

I want to let go of my ego and its fear-driven need to judge, control and “be right.”

I want to be gentle, caring and kind.

I want to fill my life with love.

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What brings you joy?

I don’t think I’m alone, or even in a minority of people, who derive happiness, self-worth and fulfilment from the world around them. “Success” is a centrepiece to American life, as is the need to quantify and measure it and everything that goes into it. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a concept that has been around since the early 1900s.