2022 Reflections, Ambient Anxiety, David Perell, Convo with Angie, The Realignment | #208
December 17th, 2023: Greetings from Austin. This is going to be my final issue of the year and I will return on January 7th. I will pause the paid subscriptions for the month. I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!
#1 On 2022
This has been one of the most fun years of my life. So many great things have happened. My training and consulting business took off centered around work I liked doing. My book succeeded beyond my imagination. Angie has adjusted to the US and even built a strong group of friends in Austin. Similarly, I’ve made some incredible and likely lifelong friends here in Austin. And of course, we are going to be parents which I could not be more excited about.
One hard thing was losing my grandmother. She had been in poor health for a few years and this is why we decided to spend the summer in Connecticut. We got to spend some time quality time with her and even tell her Angie was five weeks pregnant which will always be a special moment for us.
When I left my job 5.5 years ago, I had a vague sense that I needed to refactor my life. A lot of this was driven by my future desire to be a parent and knowing that I would be ashamed to be the person I was in the corporate world to that potential child. I needed to do things I actually cared about. The problem is that process is nearly impossible to plan. I just had faith that things would work out and I am blown away that they actually sort of did. By loosening my grip on the world, I found a way forward that feels true and genuine.
2022 was sort of a coming-out party for me. When I moved abroad in 2018, I desperately needed solitude and quiet. I wanted to get away from the ambient anxiety I carried with me in the US (see below). I got small because I needed to reconnect with myself. This was a really tough time for me. I drifted from my friends, didn’t do a great job of staying in touch with people, and was scared of sharing what I really thought in public.
Writing my book in Taiwan was a way of making sense of all that and as I finished the introduction, I wrote something that felt scary:
Helping people live courageously so that they can thrive is one of the most important things in the world. I want to see people live the lives they are capable of, not just the ones they think they are allowed to live.
The book helped me admit that I really cared about this and I think that energy flowed into 2022 in a surprising and positive way. I was able to have conversations with people on podcasts and say what I thought. No hedging, no qualifications, no insecurity.
In that way, 2022 was a very external year for me. I was out in the world engaging with people again. Whether it was with consulting projects, talking about my book in public, doing much more in-person hanging out in Austin, or screwing around on YouTube, I was sharing the ideas I cared about and showing up fully as myself.
The downside is that I feel a bit disconnected from the deeper writing that I really enjoy and that helped lead to my book in the first place.
I now have a larger family to help support so I’ll still need to take my work seriously but I am planning on refactoring things a bit for 2023. I want to go deeper, write up reflections on books, and host events for people around this newsletter. I am going to spend the next few weeks thinking about this. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the chat on the app:
#2 Ambient anxiety
I stumbled upon the phrase “ambient anxiety” from David Allen this week on the metagame podcast. It’s a phrase that captures the hidden forces that seem to fill every empty space in modern life.
I sense that many people are addicted to a low-grade level of ambient anxiety as a fuel source of their life. I think I was filled with this energy for a decent stretch in the 2010s, with a constant stream of tasks to be completed dictating what a “successful” or “productive” week looked like.
Do this long enough and it becomes easy to convince yourself that this base level of anxiety, worry, or stress is the thing that helps you live your life. Not only that, you can’t even exist at a level of awareness to know this is going on. A hurried state, filled with busyness and optimization is just, life.
If this becomes your state of being, one of the scariest things you could consider is to hit pause, remove things from your life, or take an extended break from work.
When I did this in my career and life in 2017 I was surprised at how much fell away. Life slowed down. I had a lot more time to do everything and things where I formerly paid for conveniences like transportation, laundry, or food became things I could do at a slower and calmer pace.
I don’t think I ever enjoyed cooking a meal for myself until I quit my job.
It was shocking to realize how much ambient anxiety had filled the nooks and crannies of life in my twenties. It’s easy to miss when everyone is doing the same thing
I don’t really experience much ambient anxiety anymore and this feels wonderful most days. But I still do have some anxiety, most of it in the form of existential questions. Things like, Wtf am I doing?, What is the point of all of this? Should there be a point?
But there is beauty in letting these questions emerge. When our life is filled with ambient anxiety, we can bury these questions and quickly shoot down anyone who dares to bring them up. These kinds of questions never go away but being able to sit with them has helped me not to take this whole damn thing called life so seriously.
When I was working in New York I paid people to clean my clothes, cook my food, transport me around the city, and feed me beverages and food when I wanted to feel something. All around work, which was a necessary evil that paid for it all.
For most of the past three months, I’ve been going to the gym around 2:30. The gym I joined is about four miles away. To get there I use a bike share and ride from dock to dock which takes about 3.4 miles. Then I walk another 0.6 miles. It usually takes about half an hour. It’s really inefficient. But I cherish the bike rides and walk. It’s when I know I can reconnect with myself by taking it slower on purpose.
A friend, Kevin, sent me this clip of a guy that made up his own triathlon on his way to work. Here’s what he said about it at the end of the video.
“Here’s the thing about being self-employed: you can do weird stuff. At least you can do weird stuff more. Like turning something formal and time pressured into an informal wonderland of unknowns. Weird is good. Weird is very good and cheap and a great use of time.”
I love that.
Don’t let ambient anxiety run your life.
Find the weird.
Weird is very good and cheap and a great use of time.
A great motto, don’t you think?
#3 Becoming A Citizen of The Internet (David Perell)
I had a beautiful conversation with my friend David Perell a couple of weeks ago at the studio he built for his course Write of Passage.
I was excited to interview him because I had so many questions about the beginning of his journey.
What I discovered was that he had many things in common with others who eventually find their thing working on their own:
He knew he wasn’t a fit for traditional employment but didn’t know what to do instead
He boldly told his father, “I have the worst plan for two years, and the best for ten.” This is such a good line because it captures the inherent uncertainty of the beginning of a new path
One of the first things he did was shoot 100 youtube videos, doing a daily vlog. It didn’t help him reach any sort of successful outcome (I think he said he had 41 subscribers by the end of it) but he did fall in love with the act of creation and realize that writing was the thing he wanted to do.
After that, he did a podcast and did 100+ episodes of that as well. I enjoyed hearing how he didn’t really have a plan for that either. The direction and ambition of the project emerged naturally through people introducing him to a series of guests.
It was on;y a few years after starting all this that he started Write of Passage and I am guessing he’s probably surprised at what it has turned into. I recently talked to Angie about her own experience in the program here.
It was a fun conversation. Check it out on YouTube above or via your favorite podcast app here.
This issue is sponsored by:
You ditched the traditional path… why haven’t you ditched your traditional health insurance?
Experience the freedom and affordability of cash payments and community-funded healthcare with CrowdHealth. Use promo code “Boundless” during sign-up for a special discounted subscription offer.
#4 Convo with Angie
Last week I also had a conversation with my wife, Angie. We talked about her own journey leaving the fitness world, becoming a successful creator in Taiwan, walking away from that, moving to the US, and finding her own voice and groove in Austin here over the last year, and of course, how we are thinking about having a kid.
I really admire how much Angie keeps betting on herself and pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Most Americans underappreciate how weird our culture is, especially the free-flowing business world where there are so many unwritten codes of how to act and build relationships.
Warning: If you watch this you will clearly think that Angie is much cooler than me and also should probably take over my podcast.
#5 Convo With Marshall Kosloff
The final thing I want to share with you was a conversation I had with another friend in Austin, Marshall Kosloff.
Marshall is a great interviewer, and his questions sparked a lot of ideas. A few things we talked about:
Why are people making so much money in the knowledge economy and still not quite happy
Why do politicians have such a hard time understanding the needs and challenges of self-employed people?
Why there is no “creator economy” and how VC-fueled narratives confuse people about what is really going on.
Why wishing for a “middle class” for the creator economy is another silly idea and that the real middle class of the creator economy will likely be people in full-time jobs working for creators
Why I think Anne-Helen Peterson and Adam Grant’s writing on work are interesting but not that helpful for the changing nature of work
Thanks For Reading!
I am focused on building a life around exploring ideas, connecting and helping people, and writing. If you’d like to support my journey, the best ways are to:
Buy or listen to my book, The Pathless Path
I’m looking for sponsors for 2023 for this newsletter or podcast. Please reach out or book a package here directly.
Purchase one of my courses on freelancing or reinventing your path
Subscribe to my podcast and leave a review
Support this newsletter through an ongoing micro-donation with 68 others
In addition, I recommend all of the following services (affiliate links): Riverside.fm for HD podcasting, Transistor for podcast hosting, Podia or Teachable for courses, Skystra for WordPress Hosting, and Circle for running a community
A reminder: I don’t check unsubscribe alerts and never look at my subscriber list. So if you feel like unsubscribing, you can do so below.