Q&A 059

Published on:
February 2, 2022

Dear Q&A friends,

Inspiration is this weeks theme. Wether it's a person doing things on a grand scale or a small scale, or seeing new endeavours popping up all around you like flowers in spring. May the inspiration be with you! ๐Ÿ––

๐‘ Lotus

On January 22, spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh passed away at the age of 95. I read several of his works, which often resonated immensely with me. Only after visiting his Wikipedia page for this small piece, did I grasp the full extent of what he spent his life on, which I find nothing short of impressive. An activist in Vietnam, messenger of mindfulness to the West, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, creator of a large Buddhist monastery in France, writer of beautiful poems and a long, long list of books.

As a small tribute, let me share two of his lessons that resonated and informed my course in life. The first one is on choosing your surroundings, environment, people and (especially these days) media:

"Before we can make deep changes in our lives, we have to look into our diet, our way of consuming. We have to live in such a way that we stop consuming the things that poison us and intoxicate us. Then we will have the strength to allow the best in us to arise, and we will no longer be victims of anger, of frustration."

The second one is on 'indifference', a feeling that caught me on several moments in the past. Knowing to perceive it as a signal of something deeper made me better equipped to turn the ship and enjoy life.

"When we are indifferent, nothing is enjoyable, interesting, or worth striving for. We donโ€™t experience love or understanding, and our life has no joy or meaning. We donโ€™t even notice the beauties of nature or the laughter of children. We are unable to touch the suffering or the happiness of others. If you find yourself in a state of indifference, ask your friends for help. Even with all its suffering, life is filled with many wonders."

๐Ÿš Small

When you're observant of things we take for granted, but at the same time don't feel logical, you can come up with valuable insights. Conquering human biases often leads to competitive advantage. This observation is well illustrated by the movie 'The Big Short' on the housing crisis in the US. While the majority of Americans thought the housing-party would continue forever, some people dug deeper. The movie's lead characters, inspired by seeing out-of-the-ordinary mortgage data, decide to visit several home-owners and lenders to see firsthand what happened 'on the ground'. Seeing foreclosed homes and hearing the insider story from the lending community, they betted heavily on the unavoidable and won.

This story echoed in my mind upon ordering something from the UK last month. A small deck of cards, ordered on December 17th of last year, ended up on my doorstep on the 14th of January after spending weeks in customs and me paying a heavy import fee. The same thing happened when ordering supplies for my son's school for the Christmas festivities. As I unpacked them at the very last minute, I vowed never to order from the UK again.

I immediately realised how these small personal events connected to the bigger Brexit story. The story of how Brexit would hurt the British economy got headlines, but I now realised how the blow was really a million small cuts.

If you're responsible for big, you might benefit from sweating the details of small.

๐Ÿ’ก Inspiration

Challenges inspire us to come up with new ideas or blow off dust from historic mishaps. Especially when they are existential challenges, such as a new disease or climate change. As a consequence, a plethora of innovations have inundated our world in the past years to combat climate change. Finally, many would say.

Innovation inspires innovation. I always get a lot of energy (green energy ๐Ÿ˜‰) reading about new inventions and achievements. Here are two bold ideas that triggered something, to fuel your lateral thinking processes and innovation engines.

  • Carbon dioxide capture from air - The Economist recently reported that largest direct-air-capture installation was commissioned in Iceland. Orca, as the project is called, aims to capture 4,000 tons of CO2 a year and store it underground. To put 'largest' into perspective; this capture rate represents roughly one-millionth of the total carbon dioxide emissions per year burning fossil fuels globally. Still, a long way to go, but bold it is.
  • Fusion Energy - In the category 'blow off the dust', Nature takes stock of the current state of this seemingly 'creating energy out of nothing' technology. To my surprise, more than US$2.4 billion has been committed, mostly by private investments, to more than 30 different companies that promise to have a commercial-scale reactor ready in the next decade. These companies follow different routes and develop different technologies to achieve that goal. This should at least create a good offspring of adjacent possibilities.

These technologies may never yield what they promise, but I'm very confident and optimistic that due to these endeavours we'll find the many paths that lead to a sustainable future. Let's put all our inspirational power together and engage!

๐Ÿฆ‹ Inspiring

Actively inspiring others is a challenge by itself. Though my intention is not to run around in circles in this newsletter, framing it like this immediately sheds some light on how you could improve your skills.

It is one of my personal goals to be inspiring to others, to be meaningful. I find it not really important to measure whether I'm successful at achieving this goal. When I get energy from the activity, it is enough reason for me to continue. Sometimes some form of feedback on whether it makes sense what you're doing is pleasant.

The lesson I learnt is that it is important to be patient. Your own timing might not be in sync with the rest of world's. That doesn't make your message or deeds irrelevant.

In 2015, when traveling in South Africa, we noticed large amounts of garbage lying around in public areas. Reasoning that every little bit helps, we decided that each of us would pick up at least one piece of garbage every single day. Perhaps this would inspire other people to follow our example. We even wrote a poem about it on our blog (in Dutch).

We never tracked whether we inspired someone. That set the right scene for the moment -years later- I accidentally discovered that my dear friend had pickup tools and garbage bags as standard gear in the trunk of his car, so they were ready to pick up garbage whenever they went out for a walk in the woods.

To be pleasantly surprised is very rewarding and, frankly, inspiring.

That's it for this week! If you got forwarded this newsletter and like what you read, get your own. Or get an impression of everything else we shared in our renewed, searchable 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