I did a list at this time last year with my top 5 randomnesses. It sort of felt like cheating then and doing one this year also feels a little like cheating. What I will offer before I impart the Top 5 Randomnesses of 2021 is this little something from a Best Of list in a New York Times email:
‘I also want to know the best ideas people had, the best advice they received, the most radical changes to their routines, the best walks they took or scents they smelled or conversations they had.’
I thought that was cool. Think about it for a second… What was the best advice you got from someone? The most genuinely interesting conversation? Your best idea?
Now that I’ve shared maybe something at least a little useful, here then is the Top 5. Different than last year, these aren’t necessarily mine. They’re based on the responses I received from you all. So this year’s list isn’t completely arbitrary. Only a little.
With that, let’s kick 2021 into the rearview, bid it farewell, and look forward to the opportunity a new calendar on the wall may bring each of us.
Photo: Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
A picture is worth a thousand words.
So goes the ol’ adage. What I wanted to share this week isn’t a single picture. It’s a lot of pictures. The New York Times 2021 Year in Pictures, actually.
Thinking about the year, specifically outside our bubble in little Wenatchee, Washington, a lot happened. A lot. Overwhelming, it seems. Like I feel looking through this collection of photographs, I can’t really make sense of it. It’s a good mix of here in the United States and abroad, albeit seemingly at first glance a little heavy on reality and light on hope.
Like a lot of things, it takes a second look to see more. Like anything of meaning, looking through these forces me to pause, to reflect, to think of the part I can play.
Fittingly, in the words of Amanda Gorman from way back in January…
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
I recently went through The Purge. I suppose since I’ve done it before and it’ll happen again, I should call this more aptly ‘A Purge.’ Of email subscriptions, that is. After hitting Inbox 10k (of unread emails), I figured it was time to curate all the lists I had joined or been forced to join. The irony doesn’t escape me that I’m saying this while typing an email.
Anyway, there were a handful of subscriptions I intentionally kept. One of them is from this guy, Scott Galloway. Or Prof G as he calls himself. He is a professor, after all. Also, a really good writer. His emails are usually long and almost always incredibly informative.
I like that. I may steal it for these, although that’s sort of been the intent all along.
To that point, his last email was a doozy. So with this email, I’m sharing his email. He titled it, ‘Love Persevering’ and you can read it here. In it, he confesses:
‘… Time is the most relentless force in the universe: No matter what we do, its thievery marches on (I like that). For the rest of my life, I’ll have sons. But I no longer have the baby who sat on a blanket with us in the backyard, the toddler who made an alliance with his dog to disappear his vegetables, or the 8-year-old who rang out a particular laugh only the dog could inspire.’
I liked and didn’t like that, mostly because it’s true of course. So then, I have to remember to ask myself from time to time: What am I doing to make the most of the present without losing sight of the past or the future?
I guess I’m writing about another movie we watched this week. Like 14 Peaks, this one was also really good. After this, I’ll be done talking about movies for a while. Maybe.
‘Is it possible to anesthetize the children?’ diver Rick Stanton texted his friend and anesthesiologist, Dr. Richard Harris. ‘Absolutely not. It’s not possible,’ he replied.
The documentary is called The Rescue and retells the story of the 2018 rescue of the Thailand football team trapped inside a flooded cave. Admittedly not having closely followed the events as they unfolded three-and-a-half years ago, we watched it to learn as well as it was directed by the husband and wife team that created Free Solo, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.
What caught my attention in The Rescue wasn’t quite as profane as what caught my attention in 14 Peaks, but just as profound. Despite Dr. Harris’ thinking it was impossible, Rick persisted. When he mentioned it to Captain Mitch Torrell, a US Air Force officer, he was told, ‘I think that’s a horrible idea.’
‘What if it’s the only idea?’ Rick asked.
That question ultimately is what led to the successful rescue of every single boy in that cave. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Asking ‘what if… ?’ in my opinion is one of the most powerful questions possible because, well, it unlocks the impossible.
‘There’s a new mountain movie on Netflix,’ K said this past Tuesday evening. What!? I stopped in my tracks, found it, and plopped down on the couch right then to watch it with her. It’s called 14 Peaks and tells the story of Nepali alpinist Nimsdai ‘Nims’ Purja. It’s really good. So good in fact, I added it to my random list of 31 things that do and do not have to do with leadership. This film definitely has to do with leadership.
Through his narration, he talks about it often, and about being a leader. Feel free for judging me because, of everything he mentioned, this is the thing that stood out:
‘Sometimes you feel like you’re f*cked. But when you say you are actually f*cked, you’re only like, what, forty-five percent f*cked.’
In the scene, he’s talking to a group of climbers at basecamp who had just been defeated by K2. It was a heated moment and he was attempting to rally them back up the mountain. Also, it didn’t sound like he was asking that last sentence in the form of a question. He was making a statement.
The reason this stood out to me was (1) when I’m in a situation where I’m frustrated I tend to lose sight of the possibility there’s still likely a solution and (2) I can think of a lot of those kinds of situations. Thanks Nims for that little tidbit, as well as for showing the world through your leadership that the impossible might just be possible.