Friday Sabbatical

Whatever you’re doing this Friday, I invite you to take a sabbatical, pause, and check in with yourself. Look inward to see what it feels like to be you right now. Really just look, without ideas or assumptions. Breathe, and consider that that cacophony of sensations you’re feeling is always there, even though most of the time you just ignore it.

Here are five things that stuck with me this week:

1. Firstly, I must say I’m impressed with the speed of response from our federal government. After I and others called out how the CARES act was unfairly singling out VC backed companies to be the only type of small business ineligible for government relief programs, a week later, it looks like they’re going to fix it. Our government gets a bad wrap for being slow and bureaucratic, justifiably so in many respects, but there’s nothing like an existential threat to our economy to get everyone on the same side. Kudos to all involved here. (Note that PE owned companies are still ineligible)

2. Sports! 4. Life during COVID has been hard for a number of reasons, but a big one in my opinion is the lack of sports. Since I was a small child I have never been far from a ball, whether physical or on TV, to such an extent that most people I spend time with have become sports fans in one capacity or another by proxy, and it’s been many years since March when I last played or watched any. So I was unreasonably excited to see that various NBA players would be competing in a 2K tournament, and that the Big3 would be staging a Corona 3-on-3 basketball tournament/reality show, in an effort to fill that gap. I try not to think about how this compares to the actual real live NBA, and simply enjoy that something is on offer these days.

3. This time in our history is similar to other times in that there is no shortage of lists of things we should all be doing better. It says something about our society that short, punchy lists about how to be more [insert generally desired attribute here] are among the most popular bits of content consumed by the human animal. We’ve all outsourced the structure and focus of our personal values to the masses (I wrote about how this has applied to startups yesterday), and ended up in an unwinnable race to transform ourselves into an ideal that we didn’t choose. It’s clear to me that that’s a silly way to spend our lives, but it’s also tough to articulate a compelling alternative, submerged as we all are in the 21st Century American zeitgeist; even coming up with your own ideal is done from within, and based upon, inherited cultural values. Tim Ferris wrote an article this week quoting Martha Graham, one of the most influential dance choreographers of the 20th century, in which she articulated well a real alternative to simply trying to be a better version of who everyone else wants to be, and I loved it. Life is too brief, weird and magical to try to be someone else’s definition of great.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

Martha Graham

3. Speaking of which, although our experiences differ, it seems as though most of the world right now is living, or risks falling into, a purgatory state in which one simply bides one’s time waiting for whatever is going to happen out of all this to happen, after which one will get to the business of getting on with things. I hear some version of this story a lot. Ryan Holiday wrote about Alive Time vs Dead Time back in 2019, but and it remains relevant today.
The thing is, this, right now, with all its mess and uncertainty, this is your life. It maybe seems as though it’s not because it’s different from what you’re used to. It seems as though it’s wrong somehow, but it’s not. It’s the only time we have, right now, and if we are waiting for something we’re missing our lives. This time is uncertain, but no more or less so than the rest of life. It only seems different because we’re all being confronted with how little control we have over things, all at once, in a way that we can’t ignore and pretend otherwise. We can’t even pretend that guy over there has control, as it’s finally clear that nobody does. But the thing is, nobody ever has, despite what we’ve told ourselves. There are many valid reactions to learning we don’t control our lives, and about the only one that doesn’t work is passively sitting back in “dead time,” waiting to regain that feeling of control. Instead, lean into this crisis, embrace your lack of control, and live! Make a ruckus, make a business, make mistakes, but for heaven’s sake GO!

5. It’s amazing to me that people are still ignoring, bending or otherwise disregarding all the guidelines to stay at home. Perhaps it wasn’t stated catchily enough? If that’s the case for you, if what you’re really looking for is someone to make the instructions memorable for you, and then you’ll stay home, well, then this guy’ll be glad to oblige.

(Also, does anyone have any paper towels? Hit me up.)

As always, please let me know what you think in the comments, or if you stumble upon something excellent I should be aware of let me know that as well.

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John Rumery
1 year ago

I was texting a friend yesterday about how much I miss sports. We should be cheering on the Final 4, watching the NBA playoffs (including late night west coast games), reading about The Masters and maybe most importantly, kicking off MLB.

What I would give to watch the Tigers…even as bad as they are.

I really miss those distractions.

Your post also triggered an idea: Mash up point #2 and #4. Anyone interested in starting a competitive gardening league?

My sunflowers always kick some butt.

Cheers Ryan!

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