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087: Living Recklessly

🤔 Who do you depend on? 🧠 Joan Didion's UC Riverside Speech 🖼 Finding Peace (S&B 038) 👉 Gamma (a docs + slides mashup)

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
4 min read
Cultivating Resilience Edition 087: Living Recklessly
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This is the 87th edition of Cultivating Resilience, a weekly newsletter for innovators looking to build, adapt, and lead in times of change—published by Jason Shen: a resilience coach, product manager, ex-gymnast, and 3x startup founder.

🤔 Who do you depend on? Who depends on you?

In a turbulent world, we all need people in our lives that we can count on to be there for us in a pinch. And similarly we need to serve as that pillar of support for them.

Who are those people for you? How do you depend on them? And who is counting on you?

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Reply back to this email with your response and I'll send you mine!

🧠 Joan Didion's Commencement Speech on Living "Recklessly"

When writer Joan Didion died in December of last year, a number of her most iconic quotes were shared across the internet, including this one below on not just enduring life, but truly living in it.

I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.

I didn't know much more about Didon than that she had written a book in 2005 about a difficult time in her life called The Year of Magical Thinking. It turns out this beautiful excerpt above came from Joan three decades earlier–when she gave the commencement speech at UC Riverside in 1975.

The full speech was never widely distributed but after her death, the librarians at UC Riverside unearthed her "lost" speech to share with the world. So I dug up some more deep cuts from this one for ya.

Didon advocated not falling too far into any one ideology or worldview. It was a mistake she saw herself slipping into from time to time and a lesson she wanted to caution these recent grads against.

You have to keep stripping yourself down, examining everything you see, getting rid of whatever is blinding you. And sometimes when you get rid of what’s blinding you, you get your eyes opened, you don’t like what you see at all. And that’s the risk.
It’s much easier to live in a world you imagined. At Heaven Haven, “where springs not fail.” A world in which the questions fit the answers and the answers fit the questions; the connections are already made.

Instead she said to live in "the messy world" that really is that's not as clear cut. And while the idea of being "reckless" might seem to be at odds with resilience and dependability, I do think we can only be at our best when we are fully invested, with our hands on reality versus an idealized circumstance.

But that kind of world is only easier for a little while. It cripples people who live in it.
You’ve got to watch out for moving into a world where you don’t think there’s any objective reality, where there’s only you and that tree you just planted. There’s an objective reality, there is an objective social reality. Take it on faith.
All I want to tell you today, really, is not to do that. Not to move into that world where you’re alone with yourself and your tree. I want to tell you to live in the messy world, throw yourself into the convulsion of the world.

Joan Didion's 'lost' commencement address, revealed

Also see: the wisdom of bell hooks in CR085


🖼 Finding Peace (Scotch & Bean #036)

Sometimes an app is the answer. Sometimes it isn't.


👉 Gamma (a docs + slides mashup)

Have been playing around with my friend Grant Lee's new product Gamma. It's a mashup of a document and a slide deck, combining the flexibility, linear & scrollable nature of a document page with the discrete chunks, visual impact, and presentability of a deck, and added the rich embeds of Notion.

They call it a memo (good name for a new concept!) Here's one I made recently on the Resilience Rules framework.

Gamma - the modern memo

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More Resources and Fun Stuff

  • Book Notes: Summaries / quotes from great books I've read
  • Scotch & Bean: a webcomic about work, friendship, and wellness
  • Birthday Lessons: Ideas, questions, and principles I've picked up over the years
  • Career Spotlight: A deep dive into my journey as an athlete, PM, founder, and creator.
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Jason Shen

Writer, executive coach, and resilience expert helping founders & product leaders move through adversity and ship things that matter.