Boundless #51: ☕ Coffee On Tuesdays
Thoughts from Bertrand Russell | Future of Work | Island Life w. Three Kids
May 18th, 2019: Greeting from Taipei! Sorry I missed you last week, I was taking advantage of my company’s unlimited unpaid vacation policy
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“It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks. “
☕ #1 Coffee & Conversation On Tuesday Afternoon
Its hard to explain what I am doing. Many people ask for my goals. My typical answer is something like “I don’t really have a goal” but that’s not the truth either.
I know clearly that I shy away from the typical goals - career progression, promotions, more money - partly because I’m a little ashamed that I once cared so much about those and partly because I’m scared of how those goals might consume my life.
I also have become more aware of what I do want to be doing. Working with people that inspire me. Sitting down and writing. Having conversations with people that challenge me and enable me to learn. Teaching. Telling people’s stories. Spending quality time with my family. A bike ride in the middle of the day.
But people want things they can help with.
“I want to land a job at google”
“I want to work with this company”
“I’m trying to build this company”
I was having a conversation with a friend who was visiting Taiwan this week and told her, “What I really want is just to be able to do this - have a cup of coffee with a friend and have a good conversation on a Tuesday.”
Do those traditional goals make that impossible? Probably not. I’ve definitely overreacted to traditional goals a bit, but by running away from that, I’ve been opened up to so many more possibilities for how to design a life.
If we don’t pick the constraints - the things that matter to us - we default to what everyone else defines as our goals.
On Thursday, I spent 90 minutes helping someone in Taipei with her English so she can engage with English speakers more naturally during an upcoming conference. This involved teaching her to ignore the fluffiness of US marketing language (how do you really explain what “drive performance” means?) and helping her realize that she has some pretty interesting stories to share.
I told her I didn’t want to be paid for this and as a gift for my time, she brought two rare types of mango that you can’t get in a store, called a “summer snow” Mango. There is no amount I could have charged that would have replaced the magic that comes from receiving such a cool gift.
My constraint is having the flexibility to have meaningful conversations and interactions at times when I might have been “busy” in the past.
What’s your constraint?
(the mango was delicious)
💬 #2 “There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play”
I wrote about Bertrand Russell’s famous essay written in the 1930’s "In Praise of Idleness. Here is one quote:
Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen instead to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines.
In this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.
Read the full essay here.
❔ #3 Agnes Callard On Advice
Agnes is skeptical of advice in our modern context:
It’s a great time to be a public intellectual, except for one thing: the part of the interview known as the “advice segment.”
I tend to agree and though I’ve asked “what advice would you give?” questions to some of my guests, I know that we make a mistake when we look to others paths to chart our own future paths.
The moral of every great person’s story seems to be that they were not trying to retell another’s. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of advice seems to be that those most likely to be asked for it are least likely to have taken anyone else’s: their projects of “becoming” are the most particularized of all.
Her only advice is that transformation comes from deep engagement with something:
I do not have tips or tricks for becoming a philosopher to hand over to my students; my wisdom is contained in the slog of philosophical argument—the daily grind of reading old books, picking out the premises, tearing them apart. I can make you better at that, by showing you how to do more of this and less of that. I can’t help you become a philosopher without being your philosophy teacher, any more than I can massage you without touching you…
She concludes by saying, “Real assistance requires contact” and by this she means deep engagement like reading or writing or working deeply with someone as a teacher, mentor or friend.
#4 Heather McGowan Explains The Future Of Work
Heather is one of the people I respect most who writes about the future of work. I think she pulls together the education-corporation-individual perspective together better than anyone. Let me know what you think of this episode
#5 Ben Keene Started An Island On Fiji; Now He’s Moved To An Island For Six Months With His Kids
After attending a few corporate recruiting sessions, he didn't take for granted that his path was to enter the corporate world. When his under-26 rail pass was about to expire, he decided to lease an island in Fiji for three years and start a “tribe” Twenty years later, he is still carving his own path and has recently returned from Koh Lanta, where he lived with his three children in Thailand for the last six months.
Boundless Reads #113 - Five Good Reads From (last) Week
20 Persuasion & Presentation Techniques - A long thing I wrote last week
5 ways I approach living & working remotely in Taiwan:
One of the biggest traps of freelancing and self-employment is the scarcity mindset. When I am in this mindset my brain is screaming that I need money or that I must find a paying gig. While this may make sense in the short-term, it blinds me from a key aspect of what helped me become self-employed in the first place: building long-term relationships with people or companies that inspire me. Whenever I hear someone struggling with something I can help with, I try to be as helpful as possible.
Redistribution happening within firms?
Small financial sacrifices from those at the top could be life changing for those at the bottom of our wage scale. We needed to do it to build a real sense of Team CareCentrix. They agreed. With joy, we announced in January 2015 that our minimum base pay for employees would go up to $34,000, or the equivalent of $15 per hour.
A final thought: An overview of one of my favorite books from Charles Eisenstein
I want to make this newsletter an ongoing experiment and co-creation with the many members that read and follow along. What questions do you want me to write about? Anything you are working on that I can share? What quotes are inspiring you?
More stuff I’ve been working on:
🔥 Take The Three-Week Self-Employment Challenge over at BoundlessU
💬 What questions are on your mind? Join the conversation in the Boundless slack community
☕ Interested in Working with Paul? I’m setting up some in person half-day coaching sessions with clients in June and July.
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