It’s that time of the year again where I reflect on my reading over the course of the year. My previous attempts are linked here.
I have a litany of reasons to give for the paltry return of fourteen books completed this year, as big a drop as could be from the twenty-three I put way with consummate ease last year, chief of which was the welcome disruption L brought to our lives this year and all that came with it. The chief effect of that was a a significant number of unread books, all the free time I had in the latter part of the year being eighty minutes each day on the bus to and from work on work days. The vast majority were thus audiobooks, the experience of which I tried to improve by taking copious notes in Notion. Of the lot, a few stood out for various reasons. I plan on re-reading a few in hard copy in the near future, real life permitting. So here goes:
A Thousand Small Sanities – Adam Gopnik: An exercise in exploring so-called Big Liberalism, this was one that I started reading o the cusp of the new year. At times it tried to paint an overly idealistic picture but then I suppose a book defending an idea would look at how it should be not how it actually works in practice. Certainly one I need to re-read in hard copy with time and engage the ideas.
The Status Game – Will Storr: Sometimes you read a book whose ideas are so foundational that you come away wondering how you never saw that before. This was one of such for me, the central thesis being that all human systems trade/play in status – whether our currency is virtue, dominance or something else.
The Bomber Mafia – Malcolm Gladwell: Another one which prompted much thinking for me , almost akin to an existential crisis of sorts, being the solidly mid-career professional I am who sometimes wonders what direction by future should take.
Back in May of 2020, Nassim Nicholas Taleb tweeted about the pandemic – and the disruptive forces it brought to bear on the world we knew – being a trigger for one to do a total reset and adapt. For better or for worse, we all have had to reset through 2020. When I started thinking about 2021, the sense of evolving past the reset into something new was hard to shake. As such for me, 2021 feels like a year in which I need to focus on Rebuilding, but doing it Better.
The Rebuilding part is self explanatory I think. 2020 was a wrecking ball let free to swing at many of our lives. My 2020 retrospective was a sea of RED with a few AMBERS and GREENs, most assuredly not my best year by any measure. Recovering from that requires finding the useful bits hiding amongst all the broken, scattered bits and using them to fashion a new structure, a new normal. It is a point made by E when I responded to her Instagram prompt about what our word for the year would be. It is something to be thankful for, that one is not beginning from level zero. The lessons, experiences and opportunities in 2020 are there to be leveraged into rebuilding in 2021 and beyond.
The Better bit is a little less clear-cut. What is clear though is that inherent in the word is a sense of comparison between two or more states against an ideal standard. The standard in this case is the overarching life plan which has existed in some shape or form since 2011 and has evolved to meet my requirements as my world has changed. Its three interaction spaces and seven life dimensions remain a useful lens through which to look at the world and ask the what and where questions.
Two things come to mind about what Better means for me in 2021. First is resilience, or to use the Taleb word anti-fragility. Work & Career and Financially are two life domains where resilience seems particularly required at the moment with the head winds the oil industry is facing and thus the uncertainty it bleeds into my career prospects. Getting data literate is one such objective I intend to pursue fully this year to address this, as well as leveraging my connections in Nigeria to see if some consultancy work could come my way to boost my revenue streams.
The second sense of better for me is alignment. An integrated life is one that I’ve seen as an ideal for a long time. The idea this year is to ensure that my daily activities feed into that overarching plan, helping me work towards the lifetime goals I have previously identified. For this I have a Notion set up to capture data on a daily basis that should help me, by means of weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews, stay on target and focused.