Blank Slate

Lately, I’ve been asking friends to complete the same exercise:

“On a blank piece of paper (or Quip :-)), write the dream of what you would do with your time if you could do anything.”

The exercise has sometimes been self-serving as some of these friends are co-conspirators in my own current dreams. Yet it comes from a good place. This seems like an important exercise for each of us to revisit frequently.

Too often it seems we put one foot in front of the other on the path without having a clear picture about where it leads.

Of course we can’t know where it leads: our uncertainty about tomorrow is infinite.

Nevertheless, it seems useful to have a North Star, a mission, or as Jung put it “a personal myth”.

On my own journey, I’ve been attempting to refine this vision for some years now. Maybe the whole time. And after years of reflection I’m getting closer to this blank slate dream.

It starts with a mission: Faith in progress.

Not a guess, but a deep belief that the world is improving — forever.

A guy I admire says everyone should believe something few people would agree with you about. This is my thing — that the optimism applies to every person on the planet — there are no lost causes.

Beyond a mission, it seems crucial to have values as guideposts along the way.

A friend recently described the need to have a balance of “strength with flexibility” as we move forward.

I like to think of it as “action and acceptance” at the same time. Or riding the wave like a surfer (not that I can surf!).

Anyway, the idea is that values help us as we move towards the mission. They provide backbone and act as guardrails.

The ones I see are: Generosity, Humility, Sincerity, Kindness, Passion and Wisdom.

These are a work in progress. They get clarified everyday.

The hardest part of the blank slate for me is taking these ideals and applying them to the messy world of the everyday.

In my dream, we’d stop at the level of knowing the direction and guideposts.

But in reality, one needs a plan, and that looks like building a company around this mission and these values.

It means recognizing that progress requires cycles. That moving forward involves failures and setbacks — both personally and as a society.

That if an exceptional group of people come together aligned with a mission and common values that we might be able to understand how progress emerges through themes across industries and companies.

We can anticipate these themes as they begin…and help accelerate them.

That having certainty about the future trajectory is impossible, but we might just be able to succeed in being right more than we are wrong.

That expressing this view through the financial markets can be a valuable thing for us and those who entrust us with the fruits of their most valuable resource — their time and hard work.

The specifics of Odin River are becoming clearer all the time. And the hard work of synthesis remains ahead.

One thing is certain: I’m an incredibly blessed guy to be sharing these dreams with you.

Thank you for your time in reading and sharing with me.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can ever be helpful.