This edition focuses on bright sides. Joy that is not dependent on worldly events, the makings of our human fabric, positive uses of technology to create together. We end with some ordinary humor, whether you like it or not. Enjoy!
In the past weeks and months, I have frequently recommended people 'The Book of Joy' written by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. The book describes the week-long visit of Desmond Tutu to the Dalai Lama in 2015 and the discussions they are having. It's full of gems for everyone who is looking for inspiration on how to live a more joyous life.
"You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.”
At the same time, the book is also an honest reflection on life's difficulties. It can be confronting to realise how the self-centred attitude of present-day societies lies at the root of the hardship we experience. The authors propose that whilst suffering is inevitable, our response to it is our own choice, which is why the lessons on how to instill joy are important:
"Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”
Joy, as we learn in the book, is much more than happiness, which tends to be dependent on external circumstances. Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens:
"It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment."
If we look at large-scale cooperation as one of humanity's most distinguishing feats, the principle of trust is a big factor. Trust sets the filter I apply listening to your stories, influences my willingness to cooperate, and my appetite for taking a risk with you. Steven M.R. Covey (son of the Steven Covey that wrote 'the 7 habits of highly effective people') even compares 'high trust' to 'oil', 'low trust' to 'sand' in your machinery. His book 'The speed of trust' on how to measure and improve trust in your organisation is easily my most recommended book ever on leadership.
Last week, Freakonomics' Stephen Dubner re-posted a 2016 podcast on the effect of societal trust on health and wealth. In the podcast, David Halpern, the head of the U.K.’s Behavioral Insights Team states:
"This [trust] is a more powerful predictor of future national growth rates than, for example, levels of human capital or skills in the population."
Even though we've argued against economic growth as the best indicator of human success, the gains caused by this dynamic are undeniable.
Hearing how racial diversity negatively impacts basic trust (a historic impulse we unfortunately still have in our DNA), an interesting balance arises. Countries that are less racially diverse generally score higher on societal trust, but lower on creativity (which is highly influenced by diversity) and vice versa.
Recalling how the arrival of Dutch and German immigrants initially caused tensions in the US, the solution also emerges. Those same biases cause us to over-estimate bad behaviour in 'others' (meaning, the people we do not know), making 'getting to know each other' the best way to solve this issue. That's why sports teams, the military and universities have proven to increase societal trust. Organising social gatherings and bonding opportunities may therefore be your best-performing investment on a grand scale.
A few episodes ago we wrote about the power of using accountability partners in getting things done. The whole technique revolves around a single commitment, done in a moment of strength, that feels hard to break later on. In these lockdown times, 'remote' variants are turning up all over the net.
On Ness Labs, a gathering place for people interested in mindful Productivity, multiple weekly sessions are planned to work on non-urgent, important work together (like writing articles). The practice consists of committing to being present at the call, dialing into a large-scale (typically 20-50 people) Zoom call with the camera on to then work in silence before the timer runs out. Judging from the comments & attendance, the practice is a help for a lot of people to get meaningful work done.
YouTuber Ali Abdaal took the practice a step further this week, inviting his viewers to join him while he spends an hour writing his new book. The first edition generated a turnup of over 800 people.
I love how these seemingly strange innovative experiments can turn into something useful for a lot of people. It's a nice balance for the negative effects of technology that are discussed elaborately these days.
One of my favourite human mysteries is humor. A main ingredient of it (as in all art forms) is tension. Tension between the person and his acting (some things being completely out of place), tension between a person and its environment, you name it. The act of noticing and relieving this tension (in the form of laughter) shakes us out of mental patterns, which makes humor a great ingredient for bonding and relaxation.
How people react to forms of humor is really personal. For me, it is hard to predict which people like which type of humor, which explains the long (loooong...) list of scenes of me laughing uncontrollably while others observe silently and with varying degrees of judgement and pity.
Yesterday, Alphons forwarded a video Tim Ferriss shared, sold as a great depression antidote. I could not stop laughing, because the absurdity and tension is right up my alley.
If this is your kind of humor, you're welcome. If it's not, try not to judge us.
That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, click here to sign up. You can browse earlier editions in our archive.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and tips. Just reply to this e-mail to get in touch with us.
Have a great week!
Quinten & Alphons