Thinking Out Loud No. 9
On choosing optimism, finding new tribes and reflecting on growth
I hope you’ve all had a fabulous week. Some of you have expressed concern regarding my dislocated knee incident last week. Thank you. I am seeing a surgeon tomorrow for a consultation – fingers crossed I won’t need surgery.
In this week’s newsletter I talk about the role of optimism in motivating climate action, finding new tribes among personal knowledge management nerds (like me) and reflecting on personal growth.
I hope you enjoy!
I’ve written before about how my worldview fits closely with Kurzgesagt’s philosophy of ‘optimistic nihilism’. In short, since the universe is inherently meaningless, we get to define our own meaning, and that’s uplifting in itself.
This came to mind during a conversation with someone who has recently shifted into the environmental field, working on land restoration. We discussed Extinction Rebellion, the fact that we need to remove carbon from the atmosphere and what seems like downbeat public discourse around our future in a changing climate.
I was struck at the end of the conversation when my collocutor said he felt optimistic following our conversation. Apparently my perspective on climate change and our ability to grow through and beyond it was refreshing to him.
I’m not naturally a positive person. In fact, my default is to notice why things won’t work rather than why they will. But when it comes to climate change, I’ve actively decided to adopt an optimistic stance. There’s no inherent reason for this, it’s just a decision I’ve made for my own utility.
I am not motivated by ‘doom and gloom’, so I assume that others aren’t either. If we need concerted, collective action to transform our society in response to climate change, I assert that being drawn towards a positive view of the world is more likely to motivate us than visions of a post apocalyptic wasteland. Choosing optimism means that each interaction I have might help motivate others to take action in a constructive direction.
I may be alone in that view though. What do you think?
Finding new tribes
This summer I took a course called Building A Second Brain (BASB), which has had a huge influence on how I engage with information and my own creative process. More on that another time (a full review is long overdue), but one thing that really separates this course from others I’ve taken is the focus on cultivating communities of students, even if we are distributed around the world.
With that in mind, I attended a meet up here in London with a group of local BASB alumni yesterday. We chatted about all things personal knowledge management, our productivity software stacks and why we think these ideas could be revolutionary in knowledge work.
The only thing that connected us was our experience with BASB and a shared interest in how to engage better with ideas and knowledge, but it was still easy to fall straight into conversations that provided ample room for connection.
For me, events like this demonstrate the true power of the Internet. It’s easier than ever to find like-minded people and, with what seems like increasing use of personal websites and newsletters like this, easier than ever to get to know them. I’m grateful to live in a world where this is possible.
Media of the week
Last week I told you about my trip to Korea and how I’m writing an article covering everything I’ve learned about public speaking. That article is turning out to be more substantial than I expected, so I’m going to take my time and do it properly.
In the meantime, here’s a photo of my presentation from near the back of the room in Korea. This won’t mean much to you, but to me it’s a moment to recognise the difference between me now and me 10 years ago. I never would have believed that I could do this at all, least of all that I could enjoy it.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the churning of life without really letting how much we’ve grown sink in. I encourage you to take a moment and sit with your own progress. What terrified you ten years ago that you now enjoy?
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