I'm thinking a lot at the moment about family, friends and colleagues and the blurry lines between them. About the joy of having them and the sadness of losing them. And I've just listened to Maintenance - about a round-the-world yacht race and how the best sailors are devoted to repair. It struck me that the pandemic has been like a tropical storm for togetherness. It's destroyed a lot of the rigging. So I find myself trying to build things back, rearranging habits, finding new grooves for old ropes. It's a version of what Matt Webb calls 'tools for togetherness'.
But I'm also trying to consider advice from the winner of the Maintenance race, Bernard Moitessier:
"Given a choice between something simple and something complicated, choose what is simple without hesitation; sooner or later, what is complicated will almost always lead to problems."
So, one of the things I did was organise a dinner for speakers at Interesting. Everyone remarked that it was very unlike me to do such a thing but I really enjoyed it. Dinners are simple. Eat, drink, chat. I'm planning on doing more but Interesting speakers are a pretty small demographic, so if you'd like to occasionally be invited to random dinners with Interesting people please email me back or fill in this form.
NB: Don't miss the party invite at the bottom of this email. More maintenance.
Doing presentations at the moment is a long exercise in realising what I got wrong in the book. Three corrections/addendums (addenda? adders?)
Saying it out loud makes a difference - I have a little dig at Bezos etc in the book about banning PowerPoint, but I also couldn't work out, properly, what's wrong with the 6-page memo idea. I like clear writing! Yet, as Rachel points out, all this clarity doesn't stop Amazon doing appalling things. Maybe it makes a difference if someone actually has to physically make the case in a presentation, in a room, to say it out loud. Perhaps it's easier to sanction bad behaviour if you never have to say it to other people. And, yes, I also know that many awful things have been said aloud in rooms.
Put yourself in your presentation, but don't talk about yourself - I say 'put yourself in your presentation' a lot. It's part of what helps you connect. But I've seen too many talks recently that are just autobiography, and it's really hard to make that compelling. That's some of what makes Interesting work. We meet some Interesting people but they're talking about their interests, not themselves.
It's the gathering stupid - Tomiwa Owolade wrote this in the FT a while back: "The American anthropologist Polly Wiessner argues that when humans tamed fire, they not only extended the day but also created the conditions in which a new kind of storytelling could thrive. "Stories told by firelight put listeners on the same emotional wavelength," she wrote in a 2014 paper based on her time studying the Ju/'hoan or !Kung Bushmen of southern Africa." There's something similar about presentations, about getting together in the same place, looking at the same thing.
I'm continuing to love Kim Stanley Robinson's The High Sierra:
"When I was clearing out my dad's desk after his death, I found three shaped pink granite stones, smooth as could be. I knew just where he had gotten them: Hunters Beach, Mount Desert Island. It's a pebble beach, and waves have tumbled the glacial till there until many of the pebbles, chunks of Mount Cadillac's beautiful pink granite, are egg-shaped or spherical. It's against the law to take these rocks away, as I told my dad that day. But my dad liked rocks, as do I. He must have slipped these three into his pocket when I wasn't looking. I took them from his desk to my home, and later that summer, back at Hunters Beach, I gave one each to my two boys, and took the third myself, and counted to three and we threw them back into the surf to tumble some more. My dad had forbidden any memorial service to be held for him, so I laughed as we did this. Memorials can take funny forms. That one felt like a good one."
This is the best live performance of a music track I've ever seen. Linda Jardim's vocals are perfect.
I wrote a thing on my blog about not being surprised by electricity.
And, on Tuesday 16 August, we're having a do called Those Feet at Jerusalem Bar and Kitchen in Fitzrovia. Music, dancing, drinking, food. From 7PM. Please come.
Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.
(There are 864 of you. 864 is an Achilles number. It's powerful but not a perfect power)