“Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

Patagonia

I’m a big fan of Patagonia – not only their products, but the way they do business. I loved founder Yvon Chouinard’s unconventional business book Let My People Go Surfing, as well as the excellent documentary 180 Degrees South.

In many ways, Patagonia is one of the original social enterprises. They donate 1% of their revenue or 10% of their profit each year (whichever is greater). They try to ensure that everyone in their supply chain gets paid and treated fairly, and they try to minimise the impact of their business on the environment.

Recognising the urgency of the fight against climate change, Patagonia have gone one stepped further and changed the company mission to “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” I think they set a great example about for businesses aiming to be conscious of their impact on the environment. Read more at Fast Company.

Why I’ve started The Good News Email.

My partner Hannah is from the UK, and to keep up with the news while overseas she installed the BBC news app. Every now and again the app interrupts the day with the urgent tones of a breaking news alert, making you aware of the latest plane crash, mass shooting or bloody coup. Over time we began to flinch upon hearing the news alert, thinking “Oh no, what’s happened now?” The foreboding sound eventually instilled the sort of existential dread usually reserved for the particular alarm chime that woke you up early each morning for school… until we turned it off.

We aren’t alone in opting to drop off and tune out. Conducted last year, a joint study between Rueters Institute and Oxford University found that a third of people often or sometimes avoid the news, with 48% saying they avoided the news because it has a negative effect on their mood. In the same survey, 28% said they avoided the news because they didn’t think they could do anything about it. News intended to keep people informed and help them take action is doing the exact opposite; we feel disengaged and disempowered.

I started searching for a way to stay informed without feeling cynical or depressed, and was amazed at what I found. There is a nascent but growing movement around constructive journalism, or ‘solutions journalism’, aiming to re-frame the conversation. Journalism doesn’t just mirror the world, it also influences it. In the same way that media reporting of terrible crimes can lead to ‘copycat criminals’, media reporting has the potential to create copycat changemakers, social entrepreneurs and local heroes!

So there’s positive news out there, and there are lots of journalists doing amazing work in this space. Why is it still so far below the mainstream radar? The undeniable fact is that news media is experiencing significant disruption. The current business models dictate that attention (eyeballs) equals revenue, and the best way to capture attention is with shock and fear. It’s a race to the bottom, hyper-accelerated by instant feedback and analytics – “if it bleeds it leads”. I came to realise that it wasn’t just a problem of negative bias in the news, but also of distribution: how do we shine a light on positive news?

Shout-out from Harvard Professor and bestselling author, Steven Pinker.

I’ve launched The Good News Email in an effort to amplify the amazing work of constructive journalists that I admire. It’s a curated selection of positive stories and solutions from around the world. I wanted to create the type of news alert that makes your heart sing when you see it, like a message from your mum or dad. My mission is to provide an alternative lens through which to see the world, one that encourages action rather than making you feel helpless and disempowered.

Why have I chosen an old-school newsletter to deliver this message? The Skimm, Finimize and Daily Pnut have led a renaissance in the world of ‘blissfully slow internet newsletters.’ In that vein, The Good News Email cuts through the noisy whirlwind of your social feeds and constantly updated news sites, to be read in the relative sanctuary of your personal inbox. It’s delivered once a week, every Monday. Subscribe at thegoodnewsemail.com.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

Winner Take All Technology

Survival of the Richest is an interesting article about a futurist who was asked to speak to a group of wealthy men, and the discussion that turned into a Q&A for surviving the apocalypse.

One of the parts of the article I found most interesting was the author’s discussion on ‘unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism’. I found myself thinking about Zero to One, part of the start up canon recommended to all, by all in the venture capital fuelled bubble.

I struggled with a large part of the book that urged prospective founders to build monopolies, advice which flew in the face of all I’d learnt about the benefits of competition and the dangers of capitalism. There seemed to be a missing consideration – there was no balancing what might be good for the small number of founders and investors who own a monopoly with the effects on society as a whole

I think it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the narrative that dominates the current startup zeitgeist – the lack of wider awareness and ethical discussion on the way technology impacts the world. There are exceptions – Time Well Spent and Sam Altman’s interest in UBI for example.

The difference between a reflective summary and taking notes

I read an interesting little piece with an admittedly clickbait-y headline: “The 30 Second Habit That Can Have A Big Impact On Your Life“. Title (and capitalisation) aside I really liked the advice – after significant learning experiences or meetings, take 30 seconds to write down the most important points.

I pride myself on taking notes though more often than I like, I fall into the trap of mistaking detail for clarity. This is true both in professional meetings and personal journals – sometimes I feel like I need to get everything down and then by the end I’m spent and leave no time for the critical part, which is reflecting and summing it all up.

I’m looking forward to trying to put a bit of extra focus on this and trying to reflect a little bit more.

Good News Update

Beer in Hoi An

I’ve spent the past month bunkered down in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, working on a little project that I’ve been thinking about for about a year now. It’s an email newsletter focussed on ‘good news’ that attempts to balance a news cycle that favours the shocking, gruesome and grotesque.

It’s been an interesting time going through the many large and small decisions that come with starting an enterprise. I’ve tried to mix both the necessary admin like registering domains and social media accounts with the big picture stuff like validating the idea.

I drafted some emails and became semi-familiar with Mailchimp in an effort to craft some decent looking campaigns – I found the software incredibly easy to use. I’ve researched successful newsletters like The Skimm, The Hustle and Finimize. I played around with content and wrote two weeks worth of newsletters.

When I was ready I asked a group of friends to give some feedback on the idea, and signed up 20 of them for a little trial which is running now – I’ve scheduled the first four emails through Mailchimp.

In the meantime I’ve been working on setting up the website – I wanted something basic in WordPress but got so frustrated trying to customise it myself that I switched to Squarespace. At $30 AUD per month it’s more than I’d like to pay but it’s very easy to get up and running quickly, so I plan on looking for a more permanent solution later.

I’ve also been looking in to the business admin side of things – I toyed with setting up a company in the USA using Strip Atlas, or becoming an e-resident in Estonia, both of which look like interesting high-tech options. I settled with the cheapest and easiest option for me – becoming a sole trader in Australia. The only cost was registering the name of the business for $36.

I am vaguely aware that there are some tax implications of this business structure, so I searched for some online accounting software. Xero seems to be the clear leader in this space, but since I haven’t started and have no plans for revenue yet I didn’t want another $25 per month subscription. I did a bit of research and went with Wave, a cloud provider who have easy connections to bank accounts so I can import my credit card transactions and highlight the relevant expenses.

At times it seems like everything is coming together and on other days I feel like I wasted hours tinkering in WordPress to no avail. Overall it’s been a great learning experience so far and I’m really enjoying the process of setting things up!

I’m now in Hoi An, toasting the new venture with my Hannah, my partner in crime. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all goes!

Vale Anthony Bourdain

I first heard the news about Anthony Bourdain coming home from a night out in Ho Chi Minh City. Part of the reason we were in Vietnam was because of Bourdain – he evangelised the country and its food and I hung on his every word.

I looked up to Bourdain – he was a fantastic writer, a traveller and a lover of street food. I was first introduced to him watching No Reservations, one of the iterations of his television show. I read Kitchen Confidential in Costa Rica, and soon devoured his follow up books. His cookbook (illustrated by Ralph Steadman of Gonzo fame) has pride of place in our kitchen at home. His shows were about more than food – he shone a light on our shared humanity through food and booze.

He was curious, adventurous and non-judgmental. Nothing was ‘weird’, just different to our limited definition of ‘normal’, a definition he encouraged us all to expand. He was and will continue to be an enormous inspiration to me and many others.

He left behind a fantastic body of work – you can read about him in this great piece in the New Yorker, browse The New York Times ‘best of Anthony Bourdain’ or check out his life through photos over at Esquire.

I’ll aim to do him proud by spending the next two months sitting at small plastic tables, eating delicious local street food, sinking cold Vietnamese beers and sharing conversations in the country that he loved visiting most. I hope he has found peace. Vale Anthony Bourdain.

 

Artisan is the future

artisan

I just read a great article about the growing movement of ‘artisanal’ products. In a world when goods are becoming so commoditised, hand-made wares made by expert craftsmen suddenly seem very appealing.

I think there are a few things driving this trend. ‘Custom made’ has always been a way to differentiate in the luxury market, though it’s more than that. I think consumers are becoming more conscious of waste and want something reliable, something they can “BIFL” (Buy It For Life is a growing subreddit).

I believe there will be a continuing trend towards bespoke, unique and customised products, with a hefty premium on those crafted by skilled artisans.

Here’s the article.

Desiderata by Max Ehrman

Speaking of timeless advice and beautiful writing…

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Jack London’s advice on writing

One of the great techniques I learned about during the Learning How to Learn course was ‘Pomodoro’, which sounds remarkably like what Jack London used to do (he called it ‘stints’).

I believe his advice applies not just to writing but to anything creative or deep that requires a state of flow. More than 100 years on it still applies.

Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a “stint,” [London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life] and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.

Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don’t wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.

See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all.

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.

And work. Spell it in capital letters. WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.

The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth—SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.

Originally found at AOM.

Less stuff, more time

For a while now, I’ve had an obsession with time. I think a lot about how best to spend my time, what I value, what brings meaning to my life and how to make sure I’m making the most of what I’ve got.

When I first started my ‘corporate’ career I was impressionable and started reading GQ, buying expensive suits and shirts, shoes and ties, tie clips and even bloody pocket squares! I try now to be a more conscious consumer but I realise it’s a really easy trap to fall into.

“We have a lot of stuff but we are poor in terms of our time and control of our time,” says Schor. “We must shift onto a path where we are less orientated to accumulating stuff and more orientated to accumulating time, connecting with people, building social capital. It is not how many toys you have when you die; it is much more the richness of your social life, that’s what really matters.”

This is an excellent quote from the really simple but well written article in Womankind “Why we need more time, and less clothes“. From a personal and sustainability perspective, it’s always interesting to think about whether you really need to buy a new set of threads.