The second batch of learnings and reflections from a year unlike any other.
(6) Small is beautiful.
I’m increasingly convinced that small, local, and connected is the way forward. Reared on globalism in the height and heart of globalism, that’s hard for me to accept: I’m trained to look for visionary leaders moving the whole world forward. But that model is deeply flawed and vulnerable to exploitation. When the world seems to be careening off course, communities need to create oases of sanity.
(7) Idealism needs a dose of realism.
As Michael Bungay Stanier says, “If you want to do some good in this world, you have got to get your shit together around how you’re going to fund it.” If you don’t get it together, it’s very hard to be of service. This was another way in which I felt unprepared for this year: until now, I never really bothered to include my own viability as a metric for success. In some ways, that’s the ultimate privilege; in others, it’s terrible preparation for what most people call “real life.” There’s a lot more to life than earning, but failing to get organized around how to make a living is an unfulfilling and precious form of self-imposed obscurity and thrashing.
(8) Tradeoffs, priorities, and cognitive dissonance are real.
Would I like the stock market to go up (and my retirement with it)? Absolutely. And do I want to live and retire well in a livable world? Also absolutely. Now that I’m managing more of my life — and conscious of moving into the early middle of it, when it seems to count more dearly — I’m much, much more aware of all the priorities I’m trying to balance. The part of me that feels behind in my IRA wants 25 percent growth year in and year out. The part of me that’s terrified of geological and geopolitical catastrophes is curious about zero growth.
(9) Great art is both everywhere and achingly precious.
The world doesn’t need more crap — or “content.” We’re already drowning in it. Real effort, great writing, music that makes life livable … all these are both precious because relatively rare and more widely accessible than ever. I’m inspired by the ways in which the “creative economy” seems to be taking a page from the food movement and helping people develop both the taste and desire to find who and what is precious right nearby.
(10) Initiative is there for the taking.
At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for starting. Sooner or later, it’s time to get up and get going — to try making something interesting and seeing what happens. Action compounds.
In many ways, I’m glad 2019 is in the books. Who knows what 2020 will hold, but cheers to a fun and fulfilling year.