How do we live in a world that challenges our moral compass every day?
Three years ago, I should have been there on time for my friend’s birthday.
If I had, I wouldn’t be here to write these words.
I lost a part of my soul and faith in humankind that day. Many things that happened in the aftermath of the Paris attacks should have made me angry. The intelligence service’s disorganization, the cynical politicians, and disgraceful media trying to milk the audience’s emotions out of this drama.
But instead, seeing humanity at its best inspired me. Doctors coming from all over France to help treat people and provide psychological support, people were caring for each other, and the many tales of the heroic first responders.
Some of us lost someone that day, but some were spared in the most heroic ways. One of my friends died that way, pushing another away from deadly bullets. At the Bataclan concert, two friend’s wives were human-shielded during the whole shooting by two people attending, as well.
I have learned more about resilience in three years than during my entire life.
I never let anger take control of me. I want to measure up to the high standards of my friend Hodda.
I wish I could be as nice as she was, as forgiving as she was.
I’ve learned to keep things simpler, but it’s not easy.
We live in an age of cynicism.
How can we protect ourselves from a world that challenges our moral compass every day?
I have created a SYSTEM that I would love to share with you. I am still working on it. It’s a process. There are ups and downs, but it has changed my life.
There are many things you can’t control, but you can control the way they reach you.
I have made this my new mantra. I’ve disrupted my daily routine to go on a cynicism-free diet for news, people, ideas, and inspiration.
News : filter, process, and THEN feel on your own.
1. I have unfollowed all the news outlets on Twitter.
The language they use is designed to create more stress during the day. The goal is to make you feel something before you even know the facts.
Feelings like sadness and anger are too valuable to be wasted on meaningless issues. Don’t fall for disposable empathy.
Usually, I try to find people that can translate the news cycle more analytically, separating facts from feelings. I have found that some scientists and academics are better at that than journalists. They are the ones I follow on Twitter.
2. I have stopped reading most tech blogs. They are just glorified PR machines.
I would instead read science publications or the Tech section of a good news magazine or publication that I respect. The Washington Post, Quartz, and The Guardian have become less aligned to the digital supremacist agenda these last two years.
It’s also better to read about people that inspire you in long-form interviews. For example, I love listening to Jason Fried or the indie VC guys. I have decided to spend more time discovering what is behind the concept of Slow Capital. I also love reading Ben Thompson’s thoughtful analysis. And my friend Om life poetry.
3. I have started listening to more podcasts.
The long format allows me to dive into a subject with a similar feeling I had while attending class at university. I am happy to listen to a podcast I liked more than once. You always find things you missed the first time around.
4. I am going to fewer startup conferences.
Most tech conferences are celebrations of being part of an exclusive world. In the recent significant events I have attended, the disconnect with the reality of the world was so indecent that I felt really uncomfortable and left early.
One exception for me was the Copenhagen Tech Festival. I had the chance to organize a summit on the Slow Web for 6 hours. Most of the subjects and speakers were extremely interesting. I liked the no-ego mindset, just fresh and fascinating ideas. And the beautiful Copenhagen catalog.
People: Learning to Move From Quantity to Quality
5. I have stopped falling for ego communication.
In tech, people should be less important than issues. And teamwork is always underrated.
The tech world is a toxic environment, because people judge you only by your external posture. It’s a world where you can never have a bad day.
I suffered from this with my most successful company, netvibes. Some of the people I hired started spreading awful things after I left. It took me time to understand that everyone has their own expectations of success and failure and their own way to deal with it. Also, most of the time you hire amazing people, and sometimes you hire assholes. That’s life.
Ideas: Cherish your own intellectual independence.
6. Creativity is an internal process that only coexists with a nice external environment.
The moment you change your news sources, you will start to see the world differently. This is why the choice of people, ideas, and places is so important.
We should not compromise, and more importantly we should not give all the charlatans the audience they want. Unfollow the pundits and armchair entrepreneurs who never had to deal with the complexity and messiness of building something. What Scott Belsky call the “Messy Middle”.
7. I am spending more time in museums.
They are the true resistance to the hive mind thinking of this world.
8. In three years, I have created a very welcoming and personal environment in Paris
I have my go-to coffee places, my meditative spots, my place to practice cardio and stretching, and my food places.
Remember that there are no places that you need to be when you are not welcomed.
9.As a technologist, I have started reading and watching older Sci-Fi.
Why should you read the opinion of a third-tier blogger on AI when you can read what Asimov, Herbert, or Heinlein had to say?
I have started re-watching some of episodes of the show “The Outer Limits” made in the 90s and it’s way smarter than Black Mirror.
Learn how to unscale your life.
I don’t believe that scale is a force of good anymore.
I try harder to buy local, investing in my local community stores rather than a large supermarket.
I support local and small artists by buying their vinyls, going to their concerts.
I have decided to support independent platforms and services. And build one.
There is so much we can do when we have the right mindset.
Of course, the idea is not to isolate ourselves from the problems, but to be able to see them from the perspective of our own mind.
Something that in the world of algorithmically traded public opinion has become rare.
And you, what do you do to keep your mind sane?