Michael Ashcroft

Thinking Out Loud No. 53 // Wednesday 20 July 2022 // 7 minute read

The online to 'real' friend pipeline | stepping into ambition

Hey everyone,

Greetings from Bali 🇮🇩, where I’ve been for a little over two weeks. So far this is one of the most seemingly magical places I’ve ever visited, a place where, for some reason I’ve yet to figure out, it feels easier to connect with my inner world and make choices that will serve me well in the long term.

Many of you are new since my last email, so I’ll remind you that I am that Alexander Technique teacher now digital nomad guy who sometimes writes things that other people like. If you don’t want to stay, no pressure! There’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email.

In this issue of Thinking Out Loud I talk about the following things:

The online to ‘real life’ friendship pipeline

I’ve been fortunate recently in having had the opportunity to meet up with some friends who I had only interacted with online.

In London I spent a few days, a month apart, exploring Alexander Technique and loving kindness (metta) with Tasshin, since we both happened to be passing through. On another day I got the chance to meet Nick Cammarata, where we talked about meditation and power laws.

In Singapore I spent an afternoon with Visakan Verasaamy talking about local culture, what it’s like to be very online, and playing long, ambitious games. I sampled Singaporean street food at a ‘hawker centre’ with Dio (his Twitter pseudonym), having already met him in London a few months earlier.

Me and Visa

I just spent a nourishing weekend with Jonny Miller here in Bali, where we ran our own ‘mastermind’ session with Edmond and Candace, who we just met, and who are also now friends.

Me and Jonny

Each time I was surprised by how, actually, all those online interactions did in fact create a real relationship, one that we could pick up in person as though that’s how it had been for years. Sure, there’s a strange transition in mapping ‘this person in front of me’ against ‘the person I know from Zoom’, but that passes in minutes.

I found it difficult to make friends as a child. I had no idea what I was doing, I took things too seriously, and I didn’t know how to stand up for myself appropriately. It has taken me a long time to learn that making friends is a skill like any other that can be learned, and even more that it’s acceptable to see it as such.

At this point, I suspect that most of my deepest ‘in real life’ relationships will be with people I am already talking to online. The lesson I am taking away from this is that it’s all ‘real life’, it’s just that each channel through which we communicate is a difference kind of dance.

I recognise that for a lot of people this whole process can seem a little baffling. I’d love to hear from you if this is you and you have any questions about how to do this. I can write about it!

I want to raise my ambitions

I’ve been reflecting on what I now do for a living and, let’s be honest, it’s pretty weird.

Between 12 to 18 months ago I made a self-paced online course about Alexander Technique, that applied mindfulness practice which, also pretty weirdly, I happen  to be able to teach. To my knowledge no one has ever tried this.

This course has now been purchased by 929 people, generating total revenue of about $185,000. This is, to put it mildly, not what I expected when I made the thing, though of course I’m pretty happy about it.

At the same time it has created an interesting paradox in my day to day life. In the short term, the best thing I can do to make money is talk about Alexander Technique ideas on Twitter and mention the course from time to time. The informal pipeline of Twitter -> my website -> purchase the course seems to work pretty well.

But this is not a particularly fulfilling way of being, because this incentive — the sales now woohooo!!! experience — actually pushes me away from doing work that has a long term payoff.

I think I needed the extended period of space that this income stream has given me. It helped me quit my ill-fitting job, it let me set up as a digital nomad to travel the world, and it gave me the freedom to explore various ways to heal after I burned out in 2018.

I feel like I’ll soon leave this phase behind. There’s an increasingly strong urge to lean into ambition and step back onto the stage once again, only this time as a different and, in my humble opinion, much more authentic and powerful version of me.

It’s about time I write some sort of manifesto, but until then, here’s a taste of what I’m thinking.

I continue to believe that the challenges we face as a species — climate change, rising authoritarianism, geopolitical conflict, resource scarcity, low trust in our leaders, and more — are also opportunities for us to grow and solve them in ways that are not possible at the level of collective development that created them.

Despite a ten year career working on the object level issues of climate change and energy, the collective human development story is more interesting to me right now. I was a competent energy industry professional, sure, but by no means was I so good that I wasn’t replaceable or more useful than one of the many people just like me. I suspect my position in this other power law distribution could be stronger.

Given that, I think what I want is to gather people who are also interested in the human development story, create a space where we can explore and practice what we learn. Crucially, I would also want to encourage these people to go off into the world and apply what they learn in their personal and professional lives.

Put another way — and owning for a moment how grandiose this may sound — I want to help people access higher stages of development and to show up in the world to help solve those challenges from their new perspectives. Of course, this also means going on my own development journey, one that I know I am still relatively early on, and one which both excites and terrifies me.

I’ll write more clearly about this soon. In the meantime, if this resonates with you, please do let me know. There are things in the works.

Things I’ve made recently

I wrote an essay for newsletter bundle Every called “You can only respond to what you notice”. If you happen to be a subscriber, you can read it here. Also watch out for more on this 👀

Meanwhile, I made these things:

I also did a Q&A with Khe He — How to leave a traditional consultant career to become a solopreneur with Michael Ashcroft. You can watch it here if you like.

Things you might like

ONE MORE THING

Just before I finished this, someone in our compound here in Bali said “the monkeys are out”.

Then I discovered that the monkeys utterly messed up my (unfortunately outside) kitchen. No shame whatsoever.

One metre from me and completely unrepentant

Until next time! Be well.

Michael

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I publish a newsletter called Thinking Out Loud, which chronicles my journey as an online maker of things, but it's also is where I talk about whatever I'm interested in at the time.​ There are almost 1000 of us now, come play!