“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
— Viktor E. Frankl
Mindfulness suffers from the fact that it is poorly named (what is ‘mindfulness’ even?), and that mindfulness as a brand has been glibly commandeered by proponents of the Instagram-inspo-quote.
Fortunately, people like Sam Harris are wresting control back over the narrative associated with mindfulness. See, for example, How To Meditate:
“Mindfulness is simply a state of open, nonjudgmental, and non-discursive attention to the contents of consciousness, whether pleasant or unpleasant.”
— Sam Harris
I recently completed an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and it was one of the most transformative things I’ve done.
It took more than a month to wrap my head around the point of mindfulness.
For hours I sat there, eyes closed, trying not to attach to my thoughts as they rushed in. It felt as effective as pointing a hand-held fan at a tidal wave.
Gradually though, you come to learn that one of the first things mindfulness asks you to lose is expectations. Even if you are pointing a hand-held fan at a tidal wave, that’s fine.
Let the water rush over you.
With time, and practice, a tiny space begins to open up between your thoughts and what you feel. The analogy that Headspace app (<< highly recommended btw) uses is to think of the sky and the clouds.
The clouds are your thoughts, and mindfulness is trying to find the perspective not to lose sight of the sky behind them.
Some days that sky is reasonably clear, and others there’s a grey downpour.
“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realise where you already are.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn
As you can see, writing about mindfulness without descending into the realms of the glib-inspo-quote is a challenge. All the analogies — clouds in the sky, leaves on a river — don’t help either.
Let me finish by saying this. In the end, we are not our thoughts. Just because we feel something, doesn’t mean it’s there.
Life can feel like an endless pursuit of pleasure that quickly subsides, and the scurrying avoidance of pain. That pursuit can’t last forever.
There is another destination in life that’s not attached to any pain or pleasure. It’s where you already are.
And observing your thoughts, with detachment and regularity, is the only way to arrive there.
On a slightly less profound and more mercantile tangent, this is the best hoodie I’ve ever worn.
And this is the best gift I’ve ever bought my son (note the open-mouthed shark in the bottom left corner).
My favourite cafe got written up in the New York Times.
Blackbird announced its third fund, in which I am a General Partner. On a more personal level, this was an excellent thing in so many ways.
The Blackbird Master Plan
When we started Blackbird in 2012, there was almost no venture capital left. Paradoxically, this was just as the…
Drone footage is getting really good.
And surfing is the primary beneficiary.
Next time you’re feeling blue, watch two minutes of Jocko.
On LeBron to LA, I say let’s go.
But I think we’ve forgotten too fast about how 🍌🍌🍌 Game 1 of the NBA Finals was.
Also, I’ll just leave this here.
- Robert Caro, The Art of Biography №5. Caro is one of the greatest biographers.
- A fascinating look at the early days of Silicon Valley and Sequoia Capital in this transcript of an interview with Don Valentine.
- Solitude & Leadership. A good reread. It’s also on my Text Playlist, which needs updating.
Three books to read:
- Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos. The staggering story of the past few decades of growth in China. I couldn’t put this down.
- Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. The hype about this book is well earned. Wow.
- The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. The classic story about the origins of the Vietnam War. The prologue alone is worth the price of admission.
“No one who goes to war believes once he is there that it is worth the cost to fight it by half measures. War is far too horrible a thing to drag out unnecessarily.
It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay.”
— David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest
Three great podcasts:
- Fremantle Dockers captain Nat Fyfe with a fascinating look inside the machinations of being a young captain (although this will be a little bit inside baseball-y for most).
Episode 1: Nat Fyfe - Fremantle - Captain's Call
In the first episode of the Captain's Call podcast, Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe joins AFL Players' Association CEO Paul…
- Josh Wolfe from Lux Capital on ‘Invest Like The Best’.
Josh Wolfe - This is Who You Are Up Against - [Invest Like the Best, EP.76] - Invest Like the Best
Long-time listeners will have heard me joke before that this podcast should really be called "this is who are you up…
- Eugene Wei, who wrote the cracking piece ‘Invisible Asymptotes’, talks about the early days of Amazon.
166. Amazon, Hulu and Oculus with Eugene Wei - Internet History Podcast
No joke, this is one of my favorite episodes we've ever done. Eugene Wei was an early employee at Hulu, so we get some…
Three excellent albums I discovered in the past three months:
Finally, three things to watch on Netflix:
- People Places Things — Nice movie about being a Dad starring Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords.
- Anthony Joshua: The Road To Klitschko — Mesmerising to watch a superstar rise.
- Flint Town — What it’s like to be police in Flint.
“Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth
You owe me
Look what happens with a love like that
It lights the whole sky”