Between the bubbles

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine. Bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? It is the same the angels breathe." - Mark Twain

Greetings from Lake Tahoe,

As I write this, I’m sitting in front of a fireplace in a cabin on the south side of Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is known for its thousand-foot peaks, beaches, and it’s shiny blue lake. For thousands of years, Lake Tahoe was occupied by the indigenous Washoe Tribe and was later “discovered” by Americans in the 1800s.

For many years, Tahoe's discovery was ignored. In 1861, however, a man by the name of Mark Twain visited the lake. In letters to his family, he stated that ‘whenever I think about the lake I want to go there and die’.

He later shared in a book that…

“three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to their pristine vigor. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine”

Our roommates and I are still reflecting on this quote; we’re hoping we are one of those younger mummies.

I’ve come to Tahoe to spend time with friends, to snowboard, and enjoy these mountain vibes. In the first week of living here, we’ve leaned into a steady routine; wake up, work, squeeze in a couple runs if we’re lucky, hot tub, sauna, and eat a communal dinner. My roomie Angel and I have spitballed the creation of a new podcast called “Between the Bubbles” where we chat about our days in the hot tub.

Do not expect that episode at any point in the near future.

It’s been nice to step away from the city. I’m feeling quite relaxed and mentally prepared for the New Year. Here are a few reflections and readings for your week ahead.

Virtual Worlds and Virtual Economies

I’ve been thinking more about how to create online communities. I used to think quite poorly of online communities; why would you develop online friendships when you can meet them in person? These communities would never replace communities in person….

This perspective has begun to shift for two main reasons:

  1. Covid-19 has made us more welcoming of technologies that connect us virtually
    Despite looking forward to being back in person with friends, I’ve noticed that I can develop strong relationships with people online. My manager and I have only spent a few hours in person, but have been working together productively over the past year. I’ve maintained relatively close connections with friends from around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be in person with these people. But I’m a bit surprised with the level of connection we have developed or maintained virtually.

  2. Many people don’t have the privilege to connect with like-minded folks in person
    I have a wonderful group of people in my life with similar interests, values, and ambitions. Although, it’s a privilege to have met these people in pre-built in-person communities. Not everyone can go to a college, not everyone can work at a company like LinkedIn, and not everyone can live in California. These communities increase the probability of meeting people we can connect with. But what about the kid growing up in a rural town who wants to nerd out about coding? What about the 60-year-old woman in Russia who wants to learn more about Buddhist practices? A person's in-person community may not provide them with the opportunity to meet others with shared interests. Without that, they may never live up to their full potential. For those, online communities are changing their lives. They can meet people they connect with and can learn from them virtually.

Many interesting products are being created to facilitate these online communities. People are having meetings in Animal Crossing, they’re watching concerts live in Fortnite, and video conferencing tools like Hopin are increasing in popularity, which is helping their valuations sore.

Post-Covid, online communities will allow us to vet potential romantic partners, business partners, and friendships. Only those people who “qualify” to connect will be met in person. People will spend more time dating online before meeting in person. Investors will only meet entrepreneurs when they’re about to make the final investment. Salespeople will only travel for their largest deals.

Many of us are living in virtual worlds, creating virtual products, in a virtual economy, with real-life implications. This will only continue.

Recommended readings

Impression - Expression = Depression

This Buddhist foundation I’ve joined has been pretty cool. Despite being annoyed about jumping on a Zoom call to speak about mindfulness on Saturday mornings - when I’m there, I learn a lot.

The “instructors” of these sessions are quite impressive. In a meeting this past weekend, our instructor Aaron dropped that “in a call with the Dalia Lama last night, he told me that when we lose control of our minds through hatred, selfishness, jealousy, and anger, we lose our sense of judgement”.

Sorry what, I didn’t even realize the Dalai Lama was accessible. Does he have an Insta or LinkedIn profile? Would love to connect.

A post shared by Dalai Lama (@dalailama)

This weekend’s session lasted for three hours. Most of the time was spent reflecting on the attempted coup of the Capitol last week. The feelings expressed in this group of 20 people ran the gambit of emotions. From pessimism about the future of the states, worry about how our technology companies are censoring people, to the hopefulness of the year to come once Biden is inaugurated.

In this dynamic conversation, our instructor Aaron provided us with a framework to help reorient ourselves on why we are sharing with each other in the first place. He offered the following formula which stood out to me which I wanted to share with you: “Impression - Expression = Depression”.

Impression: This is bringing awareness to how you are being impacted physically and mentally. Many external events are going on every day. They are making you feel different feelings. Noticing how they are “impressed” upon you is the first step. For example, how did last Wednesday’s Capitol siege make you feel? How were those comments that someone said to you at work making you feel? We rarely take a moment to bring awareness to those feelings. Tuning in, bringing your attention to them is the first step of the formula.

Expression: This is being able to express how those external moments are making you feel. Now that you are aware of your feelings, you can share them. This ideally can be done with another person. This can also be done through writing, journaling, or speaking to a therapist. Notice here that if you are highly tuned in to how you’re feeling, with no outlet, that will increase your depression. Using last Wednesday as an example, if you were unable to share how you were feeling with others then you would most likely be upset. How many times have you been playing a scenario over and over in your head, and once you share it with someone else, it calms you down? Also, it’s probably not the best if you are only expressing things you are not in tune with. That feels like anger. If you find yourself here you need to do more work to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

Depression: This is self-explanatory. Work to bring awareness to your feelings. But then express them. When sharing this concept with a friend after the retreat, she mentioned another key addition to this formula. The impression and expression play off each other. For example, if you’re speaking to a therapist about an issue you have, that is bringing awareness to how external events are leaving an impression on you. That they can also “lower depression”.

How am I going to use this moving forward?

In my morning meditation and before I go to bed, I reflect on this formula. How am I feeling? Have I been able to express those feelings? Am I in tune with how external events are impacting me? Do I have an outlet to share those thoughts with? Ideally, for me, another human being is preferred vs journaling or writing. Many of my own mental breakthroughs have come from sharing ideas with friends, hearing their perspectives, which then shapes my own.

Recommended readings

Favorite tweets

Speaking about mindfulness, I think I’m getting addicted to Twitter. Half the time I’m shocked by how valuable the content is. The other half of the time I’m shaking my head at its absurdity.

As a side note, Twitter, FB, and other social media platforms are allowing social movements to happen at a much faster pace than before. In the 1800s you may have had to spend months trying to rally support behind a cause. Today, a Tweet could go viral and you can set up a FB page and you can storm the Capitol in a matter of hours. I expect this to only increase in the future. I digress. Here are a few of my favourite tweets from the past few weeks.

A few other fun links read