I’m going to use an example from crypto, but this note is not about crypto. It’s about how a long, slow decline can be the most dangerous kind of collapse.
Back in 2017 I got quite caught up in the crypto bull run, getting particularly interested in a privacy coin called Verge (XVG). The team seemed good, they promised the option of both public and private transactions and they had very low transaction fees. So I bought Verge and spent a lot of time in Telegram groups.
There were a couple of problems with Verge, though. One was that it became a bit of a meme coin, subject to the kind of market manipulation that is common in crypto, but that would be illegal in regulated financial markets. Another was that it was surrounded by enormous amounts of hype.
One particular hype cycle happened just before new year 2017/18, when there were rumours of a new tech launch and some big new partnership, something that would revolutionise the world of crypto. I remember the value of my Verge holdings increasing by $1k every couple of hours until I was at something like $20k on a $4k investment.
Having been through this once with Verge, I would now respond by selling and taking profits on the way up, but I didn’t do that, and guess what happened. There was no announcement and the price crashed.
What’s interesting is that after that big crash the team apologised and insisted that a big partnership was on the way. This ongoing hype, coupled with ‘bag holders’ hanging on (people who bought high, lost money, and wanted the price to go up again to recoup their losses) created a similarly overexcited sentiment.
So I, like many other people, held.
There was indeed an announcement of a partnership a few months later, except it wasn’t with a big global payment processor as had been hoped, it was with MindGeek, the company that owns Pornhub and other adult entertainment websites. Again, many people said this was stupid, while many more said things like "porn has always driven innovation in tech, this is good actually!"
So I, like many other people, held.
You can see from this chart how that went. In retrospect, it looks like the decline happened quickly, but look at the timescales — the decline back to its pre-hype baseline was a full year. The coin bled its value first quickly, and then slowly, and all within the context of a general sentiment that it could go up again at any moment.
This is a common story in crypto, but it’s the warning of a long, drawn out decline with the promise of improvement that never comes that I want to take from this experience, because this pattern can be seen in many places outside of crypto.
Consider a relationship that starts well, suffers a shock, and then starts to slowly decay. No single moment feels bad enough to leave, but it’s never what it was, and it might get better one day, you never know. A job can go exactly the same way. As can nations and entire civilisations.
While I have had experiences like this, and I’m writing this note in quite blunt terms, I don’t actually consider myself to be particularly cynical or jaded. Indeed, I suspect most people have seen this effect at least once in their lives.
No, I just want to learn to spot these patterns so I don’t get stuck in them for too long.
If the situation is such that I have the power to improve it, then let me notice that and cultivate the agency to improve it. If the situation is not one where I have influence, let me notice that and cultivate the agency to step away before all that was once precious is lost.
Whether it’s in relationships, in work, or in investing, the long, slow decline is perhaps the most insidious trap of all.
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One of my favourite books is The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand. It’s a book about what it means to think and act responsibly over extremely long time frames.
The book is framed around the idea of a physical clock that can keep time for 10,000 years and an institution that can maintain it for as long. The clock would serve as a buffer against the ever shortening length of ‘now’:
When I was a child, people use to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later. they still talk about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life.
I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks one a year, bongs one a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium. (Daniel Hills, 1993).
I have a lot to say about this idea, but this note is not about deep time or long-term responsibility. This note is about the mechanism the clock would use to remain accurate and what this tells us about similar mechanisms in our lives.
And how do you keep such a monumental clock accurate over its 10,000 year life? Here’s how:
Its works consist of an ingenious binary-digital mechanical system that has precision equal to one day in twenty thousand years, and it self-corrects by phase locking to the noon sun.
Phase locking is where a control system checks for a difference between the current state of a system and a reference state, taking some kind of action if there is a difference. In the case of the clock, the control system would check when the clock thinks noon is against when the sun thinks noon is and would correct the clock.
This, of course, is very clever. A consistent external source of truth keeps the system in line essentially forever or, in practice, until something breaks or there is an error too large to correct.
I hope that makes sense, because I’m going to bring this idea kicking and screaming into the idea of having a job. Yes, really.
One of my most persistent gripes during my former career was that evenings, weekends and holidays were never long enough for me to think the kinds of thoughts and feel the kinds of feelings that might have been available in the absence of a job.
Every weekday morning I would experience a subtle jolt. Every Monday morning I would experience a more noticeable jolt. And the day back at work from a two or three week holiday I would experience a particularly strong jolt. Indeed, that jolt was the felt sense of me being phase-locked to my job and the rhythms it wanted for me.
For the Clock of the Long Now, synchronising to the solar noon was a good thing, but in my case I felt continually dragged back into a pattern that didn’t fit. I wanted to get more out of step from this external forcing function and, in the end, the phase-lock released only when a part of the mechanism — me — broke.
Phase-locking is great when the reference signal is healthy and wanted. My circadian rhythm is now strongly phase-locked to the sun and I want it that way, so much so that I intentionally go for a walk first thing every day to synchronise my body with the morning light.
Phase locking is not great when the reference signal pulls you away from where you want to be. Bonus points if the bad reference signal is hard to notice, if you don’t know where you want to be, or if the people around you insist that the bad reference signal is good, actually.
I suspect that persistent phase locking to an inappropriate reference signal is a source of chronic stress. It may be hard to notice, but it’s there. I’m pleased to report that I’m finally allowing myself to deviate and I’m enjoying the discovery of new and more appropriate reference signals.
If anything in this note resonates, I would encourage you to gently ask yourself: what would need to change for me to feel like I fit in the rhythms of my life?
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Hello, I am Michael Ashcroft. I am a human who owns and is employed by a business called Michael Ashcroft Ltd, because I have no imagination.
I created the business in March 2021. Until then I had been doing freelance work for about ten years (around full time employment) as a ‘sole trader’, also known as a sole proprietor in other parts of the world. Any income I made from these ‘side hustles’, as people who aren’t me call them, just counted towards my personal income, so all I had to do was declare this and pay a little extra tax.
There was nothing stopping me from remaining a sole trader, so why create a company? There are lots of benefits around tax, separation of my assets and liabilities and those of business, and nudging others to take me more seriously as a seller and buyer of things.
These were all extra perks though. I created the company mainly because I wanted the business to have a separate identity from me.
The moment I created the business I felt this rush of what I can only call opportunity. Suddenly there was potential, an agency that could act in the world independently of me, pursue strategies independently of me, and collaborate with other people in various ways, again independently of me.
Of course, right now I’m the one doing everything, because I’m the only shareholder, I’m the only director and I’m the only employee. I have strategy meetings with myself (they’re bangin’, we have keto doughnuts). I’m okay with this, and of course I’ll tell you why.
In his excellent book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber explains the difference between working in your business and working on your business. To work in your business means to do the work of operating the business: making things, selling things, marketing things, talking to customers, all that stuff. To work on your business means, among other things, to define what the work actually is, to create structures and systems so that the work gets done efficiently, and to recruit people into the roles you’ve defined, as needed.
Even if I never hire anyone, I want a business that encourages me to work on it and not just in it. This is the perspective shift that happened when I created the limited company: suddenly working on and working in clarified themselves and became separate from what was before a foggy mix of both working on and working in at the same time.
The idea that, as a result of me working on it, the business might one day grow to become something larger than me gives me a helpful injection of ambition. It’s not me who makes things and sells them to people, it’s the business that creates products and sells them to customers. I find that a powerful and helpful difference.
At this point I can hear the concerns of a little voice in my head. Doesn’t this make everything more impersonal? Aren’t I at risk of creating a job for myself? Is this a hustle trap in disguise? Am I still caught in Total Work?
Honestly, there’s certainly a risk of all that, but there always is. Growth and scale for their own sake are not what I want, but if I get the incentives, motivations and targets wrong at this stage then that’s what my business might push me towards.
I’m comforted by the other constraints I am bringing to my business, though. First and foremost, at least for now, I am optimising for things that aren’t lots of money and prestige.
I want a lifestyle that gives me space for adventure and to focus on my health, relationships and learning. I suspect this will also make me better able to be of benefit to people, not only through the work I do, but in the way I am able to be in the world.
Right now the idea of growing enough to hire people so that I can grow more doesn’t seem like fun. Perhaps one day it will, but for now I’m happy to be a solopreneur who just happens to have a thoughtfully-designed company.
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When you put a load of crabs in a bucket together, any crab near the top that tries to escape the bucket is pulled back into the bucket by the other crabs. This is known as crab mentality.
Crab mentality is often invoked to demonstrate the mindset of “if I can’t get what I want then I won’t let you have it either”. Of course, we have precious little insight into what’s going through the minds of those crabs, but let’s assume they are indeed playing zero-sum games.
The image is compelling because it’s something we see frequently in day to day life. It can be found within the English class system, where the expression “if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you” can lead families to hinder their own social mobility. It can also be seen in the managers who overwork their teams because they themselves were once overworked.
It won’t surprise you to learn that I find this way of being in the world deeply unhelpful. At the end of the day, all the crabs remain in the bucket and people continue to overwork, whether through external or internal authoritarianism.
But what if we lived in a world where the crabs helped each other out of the bucket? What would that be like?
The words that come to mind for me are nourishing, earnest and trusting. Nourishing, because this would be a world that validates our desires and helps us to meet them, should their pursuit not bring harm to others. Earnest, because we would feel free to explore and express those things that most bring us to life. Trusting, because to do all this means we could reasonably be our true authentic selves without fear of judgement or attack.
Worlds like this often seem like naive utopias doomed to fail the moment a hostile agent enters them. And, indeed, it seems likely that a perfect utopia such as this can’t exist, but that doesn’t imply that a world more like this than not can’t exist in a stable equilibrium. It can be true that most crabs help each other out of the bucket most of the time.
To stretch the metaphor even further, I sometimes find myself reflecting on how I might behave to help the other crabs out of the bucket. Here are three things I’ve settled on as being good things.
First, I reward earnestness with validation, support and my own earnestness. Earnestness is a precious expression of our authentic selves, the person we are when we’re not trying to be anyone in particular. I believe we are at our best when we are in that mode, so I want to see a world that encourages this.
Second, I support people on their creative journeys. When someone is taking their first tentative steps into making something that I might like or pursuing an independent life, I lean towards giving them money for that thing. Where possible I tend to give generously, should it feel appropriate to do so. By doing this I am not only helping this particular crab out of the bucket, but improving their capacity to do the same for other crabs down the line.
And finally, for this note anyway, I try to connect people who share this perspective to each other. I’m not great at this at the moment as it’s not a longstanding habit, but I’m getting better and better at it. If there is a community of people, or crabs, that have a culture of helping each other out, then each new member of that community increases the capacity of that community to effect change and help more people, or crabs.
We’ll never reach a perfect utopia, and that’s probably a good thing, but we can create a cultural pressure that creates ever larger communities that are nourishing, earnest and trusting. And all it takes is for each of us, individually, to make choices, over and over, to help the other crabs out of the bucket rather than to pull them back into it.
Who knows, maybe once they escape they’ll give us a hand, or claw, as well.
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The main way that my business makes money right now is through the sale of my Alexander Technique online course. There’s also some 1:1 coaching, but I don’t do much of that so it generates less than $1k a month.
Until now I’ve sold the course through a series of launches, where I would make it available for a few days and then close it. Without a doubt this was a wise approach as I was getting started and I would do it again. It led lots of people to buy the course, because scarcity, then talk about it online, because hype, and all this drove more sales in later launches.
I didn’t do the launches to create scarcity. I did them to help focus my attention on building the course, but that’s the effect it had, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.
Now, since my personal income is entirely derived from my business, I am massively, some might even say foolishly exposed to how many people buy the course. So you’d think I’d spend most of my time thinking about it, improving it and marketing it… right?
Doesn’t look that way. In fact, It looks like the launches created a perverse incentive, one that I’ve decided to unwind.
Instead of remaining engaged with course development, some part of my mind knew I had recently made several months’ worth of personal income, which led me to just leave the course alone, even though I wanted to build it. Not only that, but the weeks leading up to each launch are always an intense period of thinking and filming videos, so I suspect there was a kind of mini-burnout cycle appearing,
Ultimately all this led to a kind of on/off, stop/start approach to engaging with ideas that matter a lot to me. This is not how I want to behave, now or over the years to come.
I’ve discussed elsewhere that I want to build my kind of lifestyle business, which in the context of that note meant ‘not working too hard’:
For now I shall build my business around the lifestyle I want, one where I can spend my days reading, thinking, writing, travelling, talking to people and, yes obviously, also working. To me, today, the sense of freedom and flexibility I get is worth sacrificing more money.
But there’s another angle to this. I want to build a lifestyle business that actively encourages me to read, think, write and talk to people, always, and not one that just allows time for those things.
Rather than chastise myself for not working with the appropriate focus, intensity and consistency, I’ve decided to change the incentive structure. No more launches. The course is now available for purchase at any time.
I actually made this change a few days ago. Do you know what happened the moment I made the course available for purchase? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t make any money. This is the point.
The only way people will buy the course is if they know it exists and that it can give them what they want. For these to be true I need to talk about the course and the ideas within it a lot, i.e. to write consistently. I need to do my own R&D to move more deeply into the subject matter so I can build more and better stuff. And I need to figure out what people really want and explore new ways to give them that.
Actually doing all this requires much more consistent engagement from me than doing a launch every few months and hoping for the best, which has been my current strategy until now, even if it was implicit.
I want to keep this design approach firmly in mind as my business grows. If ever I find myself behaving in ways that are counter to what I and my business need, I will explore ways to change the structures around me so that my behaviour naturally aligns with what I and my business need.
It’s an experiment, anyway. Let’s see what happens.
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There is an online game being played around you.
In this game people are making new friends, meeting up around the world, working on exciting projects and generally creating opportunities to change their lives radically, should they so wish. There is no central story line; it’s all side quests based on curiosity and relationships.
While everyone can observe the online game for free, participation has a cost. This cost isn’t financial, although a little money is required for access and tools. No, the online game uses ideas and attention as currency.
In business, though interestingly not in poker, the term ‘table stakes’ refers to the minimum requirements needed to participate in any arrangement, i.e. to play a game. When it comes to the online game, the table stakes are some thoughtful published work, usually written.
When someone reaches out to me online, the first thing I do is look for their personal website.
When I come across someone saying interesting things on Twitter, I check their bio, look for a personal website and scroll their feed for evidence of thoughtful tweets. Without one of those things I’m unlikely to follow.
When (online) friends mention or introduce me to a new person, they send me a link to their website or Twitter profile, both of which act as a kind of modern-day business card.
I spoke to someone yesterday who reached out to me via Twitter DM. She has no following, no website and just a few interesting tweets, but something about her vibe felt good. I happened to be in an open mood when I saw the DM, so we Zoomed.
But this move on her part, while audacious and successful on this occasion, is more likely than not to be met with radio silence. I have ignored many such requests. In this case I know from 45 minutes of discussion that she has great ideas and that she would be a fantastic player in the online game, but neither that truth nor my word are enough to give her a seat at the table.
She needs to make, publish and share. That’s level 1, which gives gives access to level 2 (make new online friends), which eventually unlocks level 3 (do fun things with online friends).
If you’re currently a non-player character of the online game, someone who reads and watches, and you wants to become an active player, this is your next step: write sincerely, write earnestly, write prolifically.
And most importantly, share your writing to let the others find you.
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One of my metaphysical axioms is that existence is fundamentally playful.
Yes, this was inspired by Alan Watts, but he got it from Hindu cosmology, so I’m okay with this not being an original idea. It just sits well with me.
Playfulness is that which happens for its own sake. To inquire as to the purpose of play is to miss the point, and if you ask a child what they’re playing for you will get a confused expression. The point of play is play! What a silly question, grown up.
Play is also inherently unforced and unforcible. The most effective way to prevent play is to try to be playful. And the harder you try, the more serious you become and the more play eludes you. You can try this with children (although please don’t): commanding them to play for their aunts and uncles will just cause them to freeze or they'll learn to 'perform' play. That state of grace has to emerge naturally!
It’s easy to think of play as something that exists outside our normal lives and routines, something frivolous in which we may occasionally indulge.
No. Playfulness is a state of mind, a state of being, a perspective.
Navigating the world in a playful way doesn’t mean you can’t play towards a particular goal. It just means that the goal you want to achieve can’t be more important than how you attain it.
Or, as Alan puts it:
“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”
The point of dancing is to dance, but you can still dance in a coordinated way with a partner such that you both end up at a certain place on the dance floor.
This is how we can make progress towards our goals in a playful way. I want to build muscle, so it makes sense for me find resistance exercises that I enjoy and eat food that I find delicious. I want to write a lot, so it makes sense for me to write about things that bring me to life, to write for people who appreciate my writing and to use tools that I enjoy.
I also want to maintain a sufficient level of not caring about whether or not I actually achieve my goals. It might happen, it might not, who cares, I’m just enjoying the ride. And by enjoying the ride it actually becomes more likely that I’ll keep doing the things that will allow my goals to ‘just be achieved’ one day.
This is increasingly how I approach the things I want to do in my life. I remember that it’s all a game. I still choose to play it sincerely, but ultimately I seek to unwind the forcing mechanisms that serve to get me stuck.
The liberating insight from all this is that if some area of life isn’t experienced as playful then you can change things until it is. Make the game easier, make it more challenging, include other players, find new players, change the rules, flout the rules! Do whatever you can to make it lighter, easier, more fun. This isn't always easy, but it is a move that's available.
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I have become one of those people who eats a weird diet.
Right now I am doing strict keto, which means I eat less than 20g of carbohydrate per day. I also exclude all nuts, cow dairy, alcohol and caffeine. Not only does this make ordering any drink at a pub difficult ("I'll have an overpriced sparkling water, please"), it also requires a lot of thought, planning and not allowing myself to have things I enjoy.
So why do I do it? I do it because I just really, finally want to feel consistently good.
It took me a long time to realise that many people feel the same most of the time. They wake up and go "hmm, yes, these are indeed my qualia, off we go then."
This is not how things are for me. It seems like my moods, energy levels, ability to focus, emotions and even the contents of my thoughts are highly sensitive to environmental and internal conditions in one way or another. They all bounce around a lot.
When I drink even a single shot of coffee I get a 20 minute rush of euphoria and hyper focus, then I get sweaty and scattered, then comes the crushing anxiety and then I get a few hours of low-mood fatigue. For alcohol, the 'feel good' curve now seems to come after the 'feel bad' curve, so I just feel tired, sick and withdrawn before I get any of the fun stuff that alcohol promises.
In the winter here in the UK we don't get many daylight hours, and those that we do get are often hidden behind thick grey clouds for weeks on end. I'm sensitive to this and experience what I assume is Seasonal Affective Disorder. My life is reliably most subjectively terrible around January and February, but if I fly south to somewhere sunny then my entire life outlook shifts within 24 hours.
And, finally, even when I eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and sleep at sensible times, there seem to be random days when things are great and random days when they are not. I assume nutrition and sunlight are implicated here, but I'm still experimenting.
These sensitivities have actually increased with age, but I think they were always there and my youth just hid them somewhat. All this means is that I have developed a strong tendency to tinker with my environment, with what I put into and with what I do with my body.
Keto is annoying, restrictive and means I have to deny myself certain pleasures (like cake). But is it more annoying than seeing my life drift by in a distant, anxious, low-energy haze? No it is not.
I am extremely aware of my qualia and I know that my qualia are malleable. My belief is that the default qualia mode should be clear, happy, exploratory and energetic; if it's not then there is some kind of dysfunction in the system. If that dysfunction can be resolved, say by eating a nutritious, non-harmful diet, by moving a lot, by being in the sun a lot, by sleeping consistently well, then those qualia will emerge.
I confess that having to do so much work to notice, decipher and resolve the dysfunction is frustrating, but it is what it is. I shall keep going. I want those good qualia.
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Anjunabeats is a record label that, according to Wikipedia, specialises in electronic, trance, progressive trance and progressive house music.
I listen to an enormous amount of Anjunabeats. I have been to at least 20 club nights, concerts and events put on by their artists and have introduced many of my friends to them. Literally two days ago I went to the live event for their 450th weekly radio show (needless proof).
So it's probably about time that I explain why I love them.
Their music just works for me.
Sometimes you hear a piece of music for the first time and it just clicks. You realise that this is what you've been longing for, that this is what was missing from your life.
This was my experience when I discovered Above & Beyond, the band that created the Anjunabeats label, at Glastonbury festival in 2014. I hadn't heard of them, but was convinced to go by a new friend, and I'll be forever grateful to him for that (thanks, Kev).
Above & Beyond were the last official set of the festival, at something like 10pm on day five — the Sunday — and I was ruined. Absolutely, thoroughly used up and totally worn out, although not quite ready to loudly proclaim "Wow! What a Ride!"" (with apologies to Hunter S. Thompson).
I had been dancing until dawn the previous Thursday, Friday and Saturday (well, Sunday morning). Since Glastonbury is always the week after the summer solstice, and since the UK is surprisingly far north, it got dark around 10.30pm and light at 4.30am. I was not sleeping much or well.
And that was a rainy year, so my 200k+ fellow revellers and I had turned Worthy Farm into a swamp with sticky mud inches deep. The only place that it was ever possible to sit down was inside my own tent, and I wasn't there much.
I thought it worth stressing all that to give you a sense of just how broken I was. And yet, when Above & Beyond came on and I heard their music, all the pain and tiredness went away. Charles Darwin, of all people, captures it well:
“Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement" — Charles Darwin
It's been seven years since I first felt that stupefied amazement and I still experience it regularly when I listen to their music. It just makes me feel so good.
The song that really grabbed me was "Hello". You can watch the video here. I love that the energy of the video matches how the track makes me feel. The way to listen to these tracks is to let them take you to where they want to go. See what associations come up in your mind, notice what feelings emerge, and let them get more powerful.
They treat their music like art.
Listening to someone wax lyrical about why their favourite music is the best music is unlikely to be convincing, so I'll give a concrete example that supports my argument here.
Consider their regular Anjunabeats Volume X albums, where X is a number. You know how most albums are a sequential list of tracks that are generally disconnected from each other? Well, all the tracks on the Anjunabeats Volumes are mixed together, flowing seamlessly from one to the next. You can tell how much an electronic music artist cares about their music by the quality of their transitions, and these are always... hmm, sublime is the only word I'm willing to settle for.
Not only that, but these albums are shaped. Each one is a journey. They start softly, perhaps even a little melancholically, and then surge unapologetically towards euphoria.
If you want to see what I mean, I recommend Volume 11, which is where I started. It's in two parts on YouTube for some reason, or it's all on Spotify. Listen in order!
They are prolific.
Sometimes you discover a new artist, get all excited, go look up their other works and realise they have maybe one other album. Sadness ensues.
Not so with Anjunabeats. Because it's a well-curated label with dozens of talented artists that share a specific set of vibes, there is an essentially endless amount of music to fall into.
I'm currently enjoying and playing with the idea of an online oasis, a place on the Internet that you can discover and take refuge in from the noise outside. Well, that's what discovering Anjunabeats was like for me. A musical oasis with many gardens and paths, some well sign-posted, others more hidden, and almost all leading somewhere delightful.
They sign a large number of talented artists.
Related to their prolificness, the label accommodates a vast list of artists, of course some very well known within the scene who date back to the early years of the label, but many new ones as well.
It strikes me that they are always on the lookout for up and coming names and giving them opportunities to rise through the ranks, so to speak. This suggests a collaborative sentiment and willingness to innovate, both of which are important to me. It also means that I get to be delighted more often and experience the joy of discovering someone new I really like.
They spread a positive message of love, appreciation and connection.
Above & Beyond have a weekly 'radio' show called Above & Beyond Group Therapy, based on an album by the same name.
That might give you a hint as to the general vibe of their music. If you want to feel feels, if you want to do some emotional processing in an environment that validates that your feelings are okay, go to an Above & Beyond concert.
It's common for them to write messages up on a screen behind them, where everyone can see.:
It's a huge relief to enter such a space. While the music can be heavy and intense, it's never aggressive. If someone bumps into you while dancing they apologise and maybe give you a hug. The fans are generally lovely people, although of course some bad eggs are always present at events like these.
Going to an Anjunabeats event can often feel like finding the others. In fact, so many people seem to make friends through Anjunabeats that there's a name for the people you know who are also very into Anjunabeats: Anjunafamily.
Is it cheesy? Hell yes. Is it also awesome? Hell yes.
All this and more is why I love Anjunabeats.
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This is how I seem to work.
I can write a note like this, with 500 - 1000 words, in about 45 minutes and then it’s done. I mean, done enough that I can publish and feel satisfied.
It’s both a blessing and a curse that my first drafts are largely immediately publishable. A blessing, because that means I have sufficient writing skill to be able to do that, and a curse, because it means I’m stuck at a local maximum of never editing my work.
If I look around my life more broadly, this is not just constrained to my writing of little notes. It seems the phenomenon of “I can either do it all at once or not at all” shows up in quite a few places, so I tend to struggle with bigger, more complex projects. It’s common for me to start many things and make good progress on them. Yay, great. But then I stop, put my work somewhere and experience aversion whenever it occurs to me that I could go back to it.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Hmm, Michael, I don’t know much about ADHD, but this sounds suspiciously like ADHD”. Maybe, I don’t know. I often think there’s something, but I’ve also never really resonated enough with the image I have in my head of what ADHD is.
Have you noticed how the last five paragraphs started with the letter I? Neither had I until just now. That’s the kind of thing one might otherwise edit out if they were fond of editing, but no, I shall leave it.
Whether it’s ADHD or something else, it’s there, and I’m keen to find ways to navigate through or around it. All at once or not at all is surprisingly effective in many circumstances, but it relies on being able to capture a spark of creativity in the moment and make a thing with it. I would like to be able to chip away effectively, relentlessly, and patiently at something until one day a vast and epic creation appears before my eyes.
Writing is a good playground for this. I know I can put decent words on a page without much difficulty, but I struggle with longer form writing. Anything that requires planning, structuring, restructuring, writing, rewriting, editing and polishing, that’s where my existing methods break down, so that’s where I need to go.
Write of Passage is coming up. It’s a little embarrassing, as an alumni mentor, to admit that I suck at this crucial aspect of writing. I’m going to lean into it though and use Write of Passage to give myself permission to write longer pieces.
Perhaps a way forward is this. I won’t allow myself to publish my first draft of anything that I intend to be an essay. It’s fine for notes — these are designed to be high velocity anyway — but essays are where the craft and art of my writing will be cultivated.
Then, once I’ve proven to myself that I can maintain focus on a single project over time, I can expand my ambition. I’d like to be able to spend a few weeks really diving into a topic and then compile my explorations into a solid essay. And then to repeat that, over and over again. If I could become that person, wow, that would be exciting.
And to close, I remind myself that the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has been under construction since 1882 and is still not finished. It's a masterpiece, though, and I'm grateful for the people who have worked on it consistently for so long. I take inspiration from them, their vision and their persistence.