Excellent Things: 10

Nick Crocker
Jul 15 · 11 min read

I was asked recently what the biggest regret of my adult life was, and the answer was immediate: not learning to meditate sooner.

“No matter where you go, there you are.”

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sam Harris’ ‘Waking Up’ app, which kicks off with a 50-day introductory course, is a spectacular introduction to meditation. Ultimately, Sam’s neuroscientific pragmatism, balanced with his rational respect for the different forms meditation can take, sets ‘Waking Up’ apart.

No app on my phone has a more profound impact on my daily life.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

— Pema Chodron

If you created a bot that spent six hours a day meditating, and six hours a day getting executive coaching, it would tweet like Justin Kan.

Related: For those interested in executive coaching, a great starting point is the blog of Ed Batista, recommended to me by the legend Matthew Dellavedova. You might start with ‘The Work You Must Stop Doing’ or ‘Intent Vs. Impact’.

Anyway, Kan’s ‘Feeling Good’ guide in the tweet below is really good, and I think he’s doing an incredible job of role modelling a different kind of CEO mentality — vulnerable, and self-aware.

“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”

— Miles Davis

One of the things I love about elite athletes is that they develop in public, and more than any other profession, you get live updates on the mental models they use to drive their success.

See Draymond’s here:

Or this masterpiece of a story told about Jason Witten:

And listen to Jeremy Lin’s mindset here:

Sport is really just storytelling. And watching sport is just watching stories playing out in realtime. Some stories are obviously interesting — who will win the Wimbledon final?

But what takes the enjoyment of sport to the next level is understanding not just the meta-narrative, but all the micro-narratives that make up any competition. Will Novak — 16 Slams, 32 years old, ultimately surpass Roger — 20 Slams, 37 years old? How will the final impact the legacy of both players? Who will be the ultimate GOAT?

And the power of micro-narrative is why Netflix’s ‘Drive To Survive’ was so insanely compelling, taking me from an idiot who turned down free tickets to this year’s Melbourne Grand Prix to someone who obsessively watches back catalogue of Jolyon Palmer’s race analyses.

“Enjoyment while performing was rare — enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford.”

— Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

For someone as obsessed with sport as I am, I got to live a lifelong dream this year and sit courtside at an NBA game (Clips vs. Dubs in the playoffs, no less!).

It was everything I’d spent two decades building it up to be. Just excellent.

I feel like these two Wait But Why essays should be in every Excellent Things update I do: Your Life in Weeks & The Tail End.

“One day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second….Birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

— When Breath Becomes Air

Some more great recent reads:

“There was comfort for me in accepting the arbitrariness of what happened, in regarding it as a spasm of random damage in time and space… We were more capable than I had understood. We were also far more helpless.”

“We were quiet then. It was just the two of us. She closed her eyes. The warm water lapped at her hair, her face, the loose skin of her outstretched arms. She floated at the surface, held up at first by my upturned hands, then only by my fingertips, until there was only my silent presence beside her to rely on.”

Instructions make you better at doing what you (independently) valued, whereas coaching makes you better at valuing — it cues you in to what’s important, at an intellectual or physical or emotional level.

I think the way you become really great at venture capital is to accept that the only way to figure out the future of the world is to identify incredibly talented, smart, creative, original thinkers and back those people. You have to trust that that will work out over time.

Let’s begin with two principles:
- People are status-seeking monkeys
- People seek out the most efficient path to maximizing social capital

When you want something really bad, you will put up with a lot of flaws. But if you do not yet know you want something, your tolerance will be much lower.

Anyone who collaborated with Kanye worked with Virgil — Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Daft Punk. Anybody.

This world devours every person and moves on. It does not stop moving, even as we pass through the middle of life telling ourselves it is the front end…

This is the illusion of adult timekeeping, and children make it unsustainable. Life moves along at an unexceptional, unexamined pace and suddenly it’s the first day of school, and then it’s the first day of school again. The jeans I remember just buying him are up above the ankles. The younger boy kisses me back when I kiss him good night, but by last year the older boy started to twist away from holding hands a few yards before the school door, to dart off ahead. Now he just walks to school on his own. There’s time still for him to circle back for a hug at day’s end. Someday, though, a hug will be the last one.

No matter how unrealistic, I retained a sliver of hope that I could get through to him. That’s not quite accurate. I knew I couldn’t, but at least I could put my fingertips on his cheek.

There are certain moments in your life when you suddenly understand something about yourself. I loved going through those files, making them yield their secrets to me.

“Susan, please tell me,” I said, firmly and slowly. “Where did the brick hit Greta? Did it hit her in the head?” When I said the word head, I felt something break up my voice, an elemental thing I wasn’t familiar with yet.

“It hit her in the head, yes,” Susan said. I yelled this information over my shoulder to Stacy, who screamed instinctively.

“My baby girl,” she cried, sobbing convulsively. During the eternal drive up the highway, neither Stacy nor I speak in specifics. She reaches over and grabs my palm, her voice trembling. “She has to be okay. She just has to be. There’s no other option.”

I read ‘The Unthinkable Has Happened’ with tears in my eyes.

Maybe it won’t feel the same for people without kids yet, but I was there, sitting on the hospital room floor, a bag of unloved sandwiches on the table, breaking down with the author on this one.

“I remember that time that you told me,
you said “Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine ’cause
Part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time.”

— Joni Mitchell, ‘A Case of You

My album of 2019 is The 1975’s ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ (actually released in 2018).

The beauty of the album is well-described in this Guardian piece: “What they have done, perhaps better than anyone else, is to adapt the swaggering gang manner, art-school aspirations and rebellious conviction of a classic rock combo for the shiny, instant-gratification impulses of our digital pop era.”

Recommended to me via a comment on an old Medium post, I rediscovered this Keith Jarrett masterpiece from the Sun Bear concerts.

I found this explanation of the technical difficulty of playing John Mayer’s ‘Neon’ fascinating.

I saw Underworld at the Sydney Opera House, on a Tuesday night, and it might have been the best of their three live shows I’ve seen.

Andre 3000’s verse on the new James Blake album is ridiculous.

And, I found Sia’s voice in this clip just transcendent, even from the crowd.

“Twelve notes in each octave offer opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust”.

— Igor Stravinsky

Life has not afforded me the time to watch a movie in quite a while, but I did squeeze in ‘The Price of Everything’ recently, and it was fascinating.

This article digs into the art world with simplicity and clarity.

It’s all part of the reason I’m so excited for the launch of Mike Karnjanaprakorn’sOtis’, and the chance to become fractionally bought in to Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Saint Jerome Hearing the Trumpet of the Last Judgment’.

People talk about how toxic Instagram is, but one way to make it not that, is to follow a lot of artists you love, use Instagram’s suggested follows to discover more artists you love, and then bookmark the pieces you like most. Instagram as art gallery is a much better mode of use.

“The work of art which I do not make, nobody else will ever make.”

— Simone Weil

Starting with three days at the Australian Open this year, I’ve developed a tennis obsession that’s rivalling the one I had as a nine-year old.

A month ago, I got to play on Kooyong grass for the first time.

Better than that, I got to start playing tennis with my three-year old firstborn.

Getting my father-son-tennis Venn diagram to overlap was emotional.

Peak tennis for me is pre-dawn tennis. Melbourne’s winter cold heightens the experience even further.

Here’s what two sets of tennis looks like via a heart rate chest strap:

  • Max heart-rate = 194 bpm 💔
  • 30+ minutes at 90%+ of max HR (red lines)
  • 30+ minutes at 80%+ (yellow lines)
  • 2000+ calories of burn!

I switched recently to the Yonex DR-98 (the old Kyrgios racquet) and it’s just a gem of a thing, although it’s been discontinued so I’ve been buying them up en masse.

Speaking of Kyrgios, he is a subject of fascination, however you feel about him. His honesty on this podcast was ~insane.

I have a single-handed backhand. Which sadly, does not yet look like this. A religious experience, indeed.

Also, after much experimentation, my regular doubles crew and I have landed on the Robin Soderling’s as the best tennis balls we’ve ever hit with.

Note: I will happily play you if you’re above a 4.5 on the NTRP scale.

“Risk is the tariff paid to leave the shores of predictable misery.”

I think Bill Gurley is the investor I most enjoy following — his longform essay writing is legendary, but he’s been on a podcast tear lately, so it’s been a pleasure to immerse myself in his perspective on the world.

Related: This podcast with Matt Clifford, EF’s founder was fantastic too, as is his weekly email. You can find alist of all my favourite weekly emails here.

Inspired, I’ve decided to start my own. You should subscribe here now.

The Gurley line that nailed it for me, and described perfectly why I love so much the work I get to do, was from his 20VC appearance:

“I have a profound affection for the art of helping founders realise their dream. And imagining with them a future that we then … help … come true.”

Nick Crocker

Things I’ve Written

Nick Crocker

Written by

General Partner @BlackbirdVC. Supporting Australian startups @Startmate. Sequencing the journey to build strength along the way.

Nick Crocker

Things I’ve Written

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