Trying to wake up.

For a long time, I’ve felt a bit uneasy about many aspects of society, and my own actions, but I’ve avoided doing the maths and adding up the facts, because I know I wouldn’t like the results.

For many years, I’ve had my head down in work, focusing all my energy on trying to make that a success. But I couldn’t help but feel like my own closed-mindedness, at least in terms of economics and social issues, was starting to become something I couldn’t ignore much longer.

So in January, when we were setting our annual goals for work, I decided to set myself a fairly ambitious annual goal: to try and force myself to wake up, broaden my mind, and think far deeper about the problems around me. To:

  • Watch 200 TED talks
  • Read 50 books
  • Write 50 blogs

What’s scary is that trying to make my way towards that goal has, in just a couple of weeks, dramatically changed the way I think.

I feel compelled to write this down, just so I have a record of what I’ve done, and how it has affected me.

What I did

Reading

My biggest takeaway: the best thing to do is to set myself a challenge to read a book a week which will challenge me.

I read a lot in the last few weeks, but the following books had a particularly big impact on me:

  • This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Building Social Business by Muhammad Yunus.
  • Manna by Marshall Brain. Really short, definitely thought provoking. Made me question a lot of my belief about what is good in tech.
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

Watching

  • What worked for me, was pushing myself to watch 25 TED talks (some are really short, so this is a very simple task), and start off with the Social Good Inc playlist.
  • I found Forks Over Knives to be pretty eye-opening. No, you don’t have to take absolutely everything at face value, but it’s certainly a strong argument for cutting down your meat consumption and thinking about food in a different way.

Doing

  • Headspace. I’d not tried meditating before, but I really enjoyed this one too. It was a really nice complement to everything else on the list. Finishing the 30 sessions in the introductory pack was really helpful.

How have I changed?

  • Environment: I’d previously been aware that bad stuff was happening to the environment, but vastly underestimated the urgency and scale of the problem. I also overestimated human ability to find a solution to the problem without requiring lifestyle change. What I’ve been reading has challenged my thinking massively, and made me re-consider the urgency of taking positive steps to do more environmental good.
  • Work: At Hanno, we’re a pretty flat, positive and socially motivated team, and we look to do good where we can. We’d been aiming to move into doing more social good this year already. But again, that suddenly seems to be a far more urgent issue to tackle now, and it’ll definitely change the direction of what we’re doing.
  • Travel: This Changes Everything alone has significantly challenged my attitude to travel. I took a lot of flights last year and am now determined to reduce this number.
  • Diet: again, I’ve known for a long time that high meat consumption is a bad thing. And I’d been telling myself for ages that I’d want to reduce that, but liked meat too much. The combination of This Changes Everything and Forks Over Knives was a pretty powerful incentive to cut down meat and fish intake to 1 or 2 meals a week, and consume fewer dairy products.

I’ll keep trying.

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