It's Easier to Write a Resume Than Craft a Spirit | #221
May 6th, 2023: Greetings from Austin. I didn’t end up finding time to send out a newsletter last week as I was hosting my in-laws from Taiwan and this week my family joined as well. It was great to see Michelle with everyone and I feel lucky that I can really just not work and be present with both Michelle and my family.
But it was also nice to have a couple of days with just the three of us again over the past two days. I find that when I take a break from work, writing is what I miss most, with podcast conversations second. I’m still trying to figure out what the balance of this looks like with a newborn (and for the most part hanging with my daughter is better than work) but I’ll figure it out as I go.
#1 Imagining new paths
My favorite kind of people are the ones who have long graduated beyond getting defensive about life choices and are intensely curious about different ways people are actually living in today’s world.
Arvid Kahl and Tyler Tringas are two of those people. Two people I’ve gotten to know have been carving their own paths for several years. They recently started their own show where, as they put it, all they do is “catch up.” But what I think they are doing is one of the most important things on this kind of path: finding the others. If you are going to leave the default path, you need people who are willing to reflect on and imagine different ways of structuring life. Because if you’re pursuing self-employment or entrepreneurship, following the default path is usually a recipe for disaster at first.
I really liked the following passage and thought it was worth sharing in full. Not because of my book (they did) but because of how well they captured the experience of being on their own two pathless paths (bolds mine):
Arvid Kahl: This up just now with, you know, when should you do what, right? The narrative is that we all are part of an economy and everybody should contribute and be compensated for it for 45 years and then retire. That kind of narrative. Or you have to find a job, you have to then immediately buy a house and be in a place and you can never be a nomad, right? Because you have to start a family and have to pay for a car, get a loan here, get a loan for that, the standard narrative that most people follow.
I think you, by mentioning just digital nomadism, just completely breaks the paradigm. And that is a wonderful idea for an entrepreneur is to start breaking narrative paradigms. Right? About what a business should look like. Should you get VC funding? Yeah, sure, every business needs funding, right? No, that is not necessarily true. Or should you build it in secret and then sell it to whoever wants it? Well, maybe that's also not a narrative that's true. Maybe you can do this in a more public sphere. I think what this boils down to me for is breaking the paradigms of narrative that are established in the society around us. And unfortunately, often enough, this narrative is parroted by our parents, by our spouses, by our friends, and by our colleagues.
I kind of bring this all together. Like the fact that we have such trouble with them understanding what we're doing is that they are living the narrative of somebody else and they are repeating the narrative that somebody else has instilled in them. Our schools, our social systems, our economic theory that whatever country is following at any given time, all of this kind of trickles down into narratives that we hopefully can break. So I don't know why I'm here now at this point. My train of thought took me here, but I just alighted and I exited.
Tyler Tringas: I think you made a great point there, which is and I wanted to sort of talk a little bit about, okay, what, what do we think you know, maybe other folks who are feeling a lot of these feelings that we've been describing could do and I do think you just touched on the number one thing which is not. It's like kind of straightforward and simple and a lot of folks have unpacked in a bunch of different ways, but just kind of like assessing the you know, the script or the playbook or the narrative that you sort of have this perception that you're supposed to be on and really just questioning that, right?
I mean, a lot of entrepreneurship is questioning other narratives about, you know, the world, right? You know, okay, this market is saturated. Nobody else could enter it. Is that really true? You know, like a lot of the opportunities come from that. And sometimes we forget to apply that same kind of critical lens to our own lives, right? To the narratives that we tell ourselves that other people try to impose on us to say like, well, you should be doing X, Y, and Z. And, and you can sort of take that same entrepreneurs kind of skeptical, critical thinking analysis to it and say like, wait, is that true? And what do you often find is like, no, you don't have to do that at all. Like, you can actually do whatever you want in your life. And what's been really helpful for me personally has been to connect with not just so we're going to I was going to suggest, you know, connecting with other entrepreneurs,
I think that's kind of the no-brainer, which is trying to find your community. And we can talk a little about that. But but also just connecting with other people who are living lives that are just very different.
I got this primarily just from traveling a ton. But there are certainly other ways you could probably do this. But but getting a firsthand experience of other people who are living dramatically sort of off-script lifestyles and this could be maybe through podcasts or whatever but just sort of hearing other people Describe a non-traditional approach to their lives. I think helps you widen the aperture of What's allowed and what's possible, you know and I think really reinforces that to say like yeah “A bunch of people think I'm off script here But like, that's okay.” And a lot of people live their lives that way, and it's fine, you know? You don't have to do any of those narratives. So I think that's like kind of step one, is just like this base level understanding that, you know, you can just kind of do whatever you want.
Arvid Kahl: Yeah, that's also what Paul is writing about in like the pathless path, right? Let's bring that book into the mix here as well. The path that you choose can just also be one of wandering around intentionally, right? It doesn't need to be somebody else's script you follow. It could be just you writing your own script retroactively by just walking the path you want to walk and just taking opportunities as they present themselves and then they connect the dots retrospectively, which is... or retroactively, I guess.
That's how it works anyway, right? Like most people describing their journey, and then you see this a lot in memoirs and stuff like they find a lot of stuff that kind of connected, but it was not connected at the moment. It was never connected. Like the next thing, the next opportunity just happened, and they had this gut feeling that it was a good one to follow, and then they took it on, and it turned into something that connected super well with everything else. But that wasn't obvious at that moment. It became obvious later when things all kind of fell into place.
There's this nice, in sociology, I think this nice graph of the decision tree that you make in your life. And the decision tree that you made up till this point is just one path among many decisions that led you to where you are. And from now, there is an infinite amount of possible decisions that you can still make. But every year that you step forward into this decision tree, the path that you went and made decisions gets longer. But the path in front of you is still infinite. That's kind of what always motivates me to just look into opportunities as something that probably connects to whatever I did in the past. Just take the opportunity and see where it goes. And that is the journey of my life. That's my pathless path. Kind of. That's how I feel it. And I love that you talk about finding your peers and building community. That's the easiest way to find it, I feel.
Like, because you see, not only do you see other people walk their own path, which is inspirational, but you also see the decision-making that goes into it. How they weigh the risk, how they defend their decisions against others, just like what we've been doing here, describing how we defend our choice of entrepreneurship to our families, to our spouses, to our peers.
That is something that just the fact that we did it might inspire somebody else to also do it and find their own path. And for that, you need to be in the community where you get exposed to conversations like ours. Right, if you're just in a community where people go the traditional ways and talk about how to build a career and how to write a CV, Well, you won't necessarily find inspiration to defend your own choices, right?
So that is a big deal for me as well.
You can watch the full conversation here:
#2 Kyle Kowalski had an existential crisis and it made walking away from $250k easy
I’ve been asking Kyle to come on the podcast for years. The reason he kept turning me down was that he had a “no meetings” policy. None. Nunca.
For years, he leaned into something he loved: writing. He has compiled one of the deepest virtual libraries around what he calls “the art of living” on his site Sloww
Here is how he describes his own existential crisis:
I was working insane hours at my job — and had been for the better part of the entire year. This meant consistently working 60/70/80-hour weeks. There were a couple moments I distinctly remember when it hit its worst.
In June 2015, I had a warning sign. I completely blanked in a huge presentation. This was after getting 2-3 hours of sleep the night before. The lack of sleep had already been compounding for weeks, if not months. I think I had a mini anxiety/panic attack, was short of breath, couldn’t catch my breath, rapid heartbeat, and blanked. Completely. I probably spoke for less than a minute before just passing it on to the next presenter. It was bad.
But, of course the warning sign wasn’t enough for me to change my ways. Fast forward a few months to November 2015.
I had no free time. I wasn’t sleeping. I distinctly remember trying to go to bed at night and staring at the ceiling of our bedroom. It was late (as usual), but I couldn’t fall asleep. My heart was racing. Anxiety at an all-time high. I could not calm myself down enough to fall asleep. No amount of deep breaths were working. I stared at the ceiling for what seemed like hours. I was physically killing myself to work.
We talk about all this and more in my most recent podcast episode.
You can listen here: Podcast Links
Or you can watch:
#3 “It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit”
Loved this commencement address from Anna Quindlen in June 2000:
Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.
There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.
I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.
All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid's eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live.
I learned to live many years ago.
#4 We’ll Create Silly Games
I liked this reflection from
When no one has to work to survive, the things we make up to keep ourselves busy will look increasingly silly. But we’ll take them really fucking seriously. And when those games get old, we’ll create newer, wilder ones…consequence of increased productivity has been that most people work less: college, retirement, and weekends are all relatively recent phenomena. This trend, too, will likely continue. We’ll get to play games for work and work less if we wish.
I think we forget sometimes that the long-term trend over the past couple hundred years had been toward less work. But even when people have enough financially, they convince themselves they don’t and keep working, why? I sense mostly as Packy says, we need to be serious about some things and for many work is the easiest way.
#5 Writing on Work
I’ve been enjoying's reflections on taking a half-year career break. I just breezed through a number of his essays. Here is one on golden handcuffs:
The tech world is inundated with talk about “exits”. Basically, an exit is when you cash out from the game and get to do whatever you want. But I’ve always found this weird. If we’re constantly talking about our desire to leave…doesn’t that tell us something about where we currently are? Doesn’t that imply displeasure with your current location? Where are we trying to go? Is that place inaccessible to us right now?
He also published a thoughtful reflection on taking a sabbatical in Every:
I’d encourage you not to dismiss the investment of a sabbatical as something inherently frivolous. We often stay in unfulfilling jobs because the opportunity costs (salary, stocks, bonuses — if we’re lucky) seem too large to give up. But what about the opportunity cost of not taking the leap? What price are you paying if you stay in a job that drains you and hurts your mental health?
Far too many people use the weird argument that because other people can’t take a sabbatical, they shouldn’t either. Tobi makes a good case to avoid that kind of thinking and to invest in figuring out who you really are.
Looking forward to reading more of his work!
Thanks For Reading!
I am focused on building a life around exploring ideas, connecting and helping people, and writing. I’ve also recently launched a community called Find The Others. There are weekly writing sessions, monthly “find the others” (literally) meetups and general supportive vibes.
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