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Letter sent on Jan 30, 2017

Stories, science, and art to help navigate the dark forests of life

We just launched our new “Art & Design” section… The art in this week’s newsletter is supplied by our featured artist for February, Mike Corley.
“Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.” –Ludwig Wittgenstein

There is a lot of fear percolating through the media. Fear is a virus that’s contagious. The antidote is hope.

This week’s newsletter offers a message of hope, plus stories, science, and art to help escape the (sometimes) dark forests of life.


How to take a weight off your mind:

I set aside time this past week to have two long conversations with friends. It was a powerful reminder that lasting relationships with philosophically aligned people are built steadily over years. Often we find ourselves in conversations with someone who is just waiting for their turn to speak. By taking the time to invest in relationships with people with shared values, you can get to the place where you both listen to each other. Those types of conversations are the perfect way to recharge and go back to work revitalized. If you’re trapped in a place where you’re not free to do this, get online, find smart people, and jump on Google Hangouts or Skype. Mutually beneficial relationships take investment, time, and work, but the right ones with philosophically-aligned friends are worth it.


While plenty of media is devoted to spreading fear, here are two recent breakthroughs worth cheering about:

Two Infants Treated with Universal Immune Cells Have Their Cancer Vanish –MIT


If Elon Musk Gets His Way, We’ll Have Less Traffic and Smog –TCSM

The Latest

After a recommendation from a friend, I finally got around to watching Christopher Nolan’s second film, Memento. Like any good piece of art, there are powerful stories behind the story. Nolan’s first film called Following was shot with £3,000 on weekends over the course of a year. After that, he had proven himself, and got an offer to make a film with a larger budget. Because Nolan put his all into making Following, he got the resources he need to make Memento. That leap wasn’t easy, but he did it anyways:

“[The] difference between shooting Following with a group of friends wearing our own clothes and my mum making sandwiches to spending $4 million of somebody else’s money on Memento and having a crew of a hundred people is, to this day, by far the biggest leap I’ve ever made.”
— Christopher Nolan (in 2012) on the jump from his first film to his second. Sources: Wikipedia and Management Lessons from Movies

I love Joseph Campbell’s advice on making those leaps in your own life…

“A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.” — Joseph Campbell

Tech & Business

We’re getting ready to announce our sponsor for the month of February! We’ll announce that on February 1st. February’s theme is heavily inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s call to create authentic media that “Documents” your story. We’ll be doing just that, and exploring topics like how to start a business, book your first clients, invoice, generate referrals, partnerships, and plenty of other goodies.

In that spirit, this is one of the best articles I’ve read recently to cultivate the right business mindset:

How to Win at Customer Service, Even If You’re Not Nordstrom, Apple, Or Amazon by Micah Solomon

There are so many variables you don’t control in tech, business, and commerce, but amazing customer service is one that is usually under your control. It’s hard to lose if you build your business with a sincere desire and worth ethic around serving your clients and customers.

Science & Makers

For humans, if diversity in ideas is not allowed, it is akin to constricting and centralizing the gene pool. If we lose our ability to have and voice diverse ideas… this change in behavior will be deadly. But, if we recognize it and allow diverse ideas to emerge, we might have a chance to redeem the human enterprise.

To dive deeper into these ideas, we can examine the work of Michael Crichton, whose fiction was packed with esoteric ideas like these that many people don’t want to discuss.

IMHO, Crichton was one of the most underrated ideators of our time. I say ideator instead of storyteller because sadly, he didn’t want to write fiction or tell stories. He wanted to write non-fiction, but found that most people consciously or unconsciously hated you if you told them good ideas or truths. So begrudgingly, Crichton started writing fiction to pay the bills, and as Leo Strauss advises, inserted his esoteric truths and imaginings. Thankfully, in some extended interviews, Crichton provided some insights about his larger ideas. This is an excerpt from one of his interviews with Charlie Rose on his book The Lost World:

Michael Crichton: It’s about long-term trends. It’s about extinction.
Charlie Rose: Do you think the human species is on the road to extinction because of its behavior, because it’s lost control of civility?
Michael Crichton: Well, I think what — let’s see what we would say. Are we on the road to extinction? Absolutely because all species become extinct.
The need that we have as a species, therefore, is, is similar to what a population needs in terms of, of variability inside the population. There has to be many different kinds of animals inside — I mean, a variation inside a species so that if something happens, like a plague or something, there’s enough variation that some animals survive because they have, let’s say a — an innate resistance — or something like that.
Well, for us, the equivalent of that is ideas. There has to be a, a pool, a variable pool of ideas, diversity of ideas, ways of thinking, notions of what to do. And one of the concerns that I have is that our technology now is shrinking the pool of ideas, and, and certainly the current tendency in this country, you know, the lack of civility — we are in a position to, to recognize that certain kinds of changes, certain kinds of behavior can produce catastrophic change, and it’s not always clear where those things are.
…We’re in a nation that really wants to shout everybody else down — at the moment. You know, and we’re really shrinking the notion of available options. We’re shrinking the diversity of opinion on almost every subject so that you’re either for it or against it. You’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. This is not healthy.

To explore Crichton’s origins, checkout the documentary, The Med School Years. It sheds some light on his early story. Crichton aspired to do the most good he possibly could through the traditional path that society and culture laid out for him (become a medical doctor). Thankfully for us, Crichton escaped Harvard medical school. The program literally used to mandate that anyone who was having “second thoughts about medicine” (i.e. thinking and asking questions) to talk to a Harvard Psychiatrist multiple times before they were allowed to quit.

The Med School Years is a fun documentary. For those that want to go even deeper, Crichton’s autobiography Travels is a must read. It also contains some insights as to the diverse type of ideas that must be allowed into science and everyday life if we’re going to redeem the human enterprise, evolve, and escape extinction.

Art & Design

Please welcome The Mission’s featured artist for the month of February, Mike Corley! In my opinion, Mike is one of the best book cover designers in the world right now.

Just a sample of Mike’s amazing art. Check out more here.

My prediction for the next few decades is that physical books will surge in popularity. The reasons for this abound, and are the subject of another post… or entire book. With that being said, Mike is one of my favorite artists who is poised to perfectly capitalize on this wave. I’ve commissioned him for projects, and he is a true professional. You’ll see his work throughout The Mission this month. If you or your business decides to commission Mike for illustrations, a book cover, or any project you can dream up, be sure to mention you’re a reader of The Mission. Mike has worked with clients like Simon and Schuster and Microsoft, so tends to get a deluge of art commissioning requests. But, I have a feeling readers of The Mission might catch his eye ;)

A closing thought…

In times of great strife, a wise man once said the only appropriate response was,

“Push the art-pedal to the floor.”

I couldn’t agree more.

See you next week!

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