Thursday, June 11, 2020

Zig Zagging to Gratitude

Dear Jen and Manoush;   
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for starting Stable Genius Productions, producing the ZigZag Podcast, and the Note to Self Podcast in its various iterations. Your work helped me feel less isolated with my technocapitalism skepticism, helped me reframe my career zigzags instead of fighting them, and connect with what it means to be a man in today’s world.
It’s May of 2020, the Age of SARS-CoV-2 (for now). I just listened to your May 7 episode, the "End of a Partnership". I knew this was coming. I was a bit sad, but not for long. You made an impact. You connected with me and thousands of listeners, many of which shared their own stories with you through audio recordings, tweets, and comments. Wow.
I started listening to Note to Self about four years ago after a friend suggested I might like it. I did. I’d come back to catch up when I’d been away for a while - it stuck. Jen helped produce those great episodes and series – I recall the Privacy Paradox  fondly.

At the risk of being too much of a fanboy and seeking some sort of Google award for links, here’re a few things (Oh! The things!) I learned about by listening to you, followed by a succinct (code for I’m tired) take-a-way.

Good news! I had audio notes I made for just this occasion prompted by your episodes on my mobile device dating back to the fall of 2016. I’ve had a task on my to-do list for longer than I’d care to admit about sending y’all a summary - something like this thank you note. It started November 5th, 2016 when your Note to Self episode related to Facebook privacy connected with my misgivings about data use and ownership. I said to myself, “understanding brings peace” as it relates to my online breadcrumbs scattered willy-nilly over the interwebs, from social media to old email addresses to shopping accounts and anything else out there. Who ultimately owns it, has access to it, and can monetize it? I still don’t understand that.
You inspired me to verbalize my thoughts about the Privacy Paradox in January and February of 2017. Essentially boiling down to the familiar anxiety over where my data goes, and if it matters. I’m still struggling with this, especially as our kids are thrown headlong into distance learning with screen time that I’m uncomfortable with through app intermediaries that I know little to nothing about. My anxiety is heightened since  my own relationship with tech is less than ideal.  Where will their data (and parts of their identities) end up? How will the apps behind the screen with its benefits, flaws, imperfections, and lean toward monetization change the course of their relationships and personalities? Can I help navigate it?
I’m 98% sure “Note to Self” introduced me to Tristan Harris and Time Well Spent (morphing into The Center for Humane Technology) and Timothy Wu’s work on the Attention Economy. Vying for and selling our attention is nothing new, the stakes may be higher. You helped me wrestle with that - at least I read Tim’s book. It’s funny, so much of what you covered connected with my misgivings about social media when I started managing it as a part time consultant for small, local businesses around Boston in 2008-ish. As a bizdev person, I noted its power to engage fans. As a human, I was wary and still am.
In the fall of 2019, I drove back-and-forth between northern VT and western MA to manage what turned out to be my grandmother’s dying process. Oh that! Wait for it.  Seven hrs round trip caught me up on your work. Season 4, episode 10, “This is What a Male Identity Crisis Sounds Like” was another slam dunk as I grappled with my role as care coordinator (I can’t even use the word “caregiver”) for my grandmother, a role typically taken on by women. In a note I recorded October 13, your interview and conversation helped me reframe my self-perceived “failure” as a man for not being the lead wage-earner in our family unit and not being employed, even though I know that’s an outdated mode of thinking. I’m contributing to our family in other important and non-money earning ways. I still carry that guilt/anxiety/shame that I’m not living up to my family responsibilities as a man.
A mere two days later, I listened to Season 4, Episode 11, “Pacing Yourself After Burnout” as I was driving home from spending three days with my grandmother navigating another crisis (the beginning of her aforementioned dying process). You were hitting all the buttons. Looking back, this helped me understand the price I paid in mental energy when I signed up to support my grandmother’s aging and dying. I did so willingly, and was clueless about  what it took. I allowed zero space for that, feeling like I just needed to add more to my plate.
Did I ever tell you about VTdigger here in Vermont? They’re a non-profit, citizen supported news source seeking to explain complex issues, holding the government accountable to the public, and engaging Vermonters in the democratic process.  With what you’re doing with Stable Genius, and your experiment with Civil, thought you’d like to know about it. Maybe I tweeted it, but does that really count? 
One more thing. ZigZag’s not dead, just on hiatus, right? Manoush assumed sole ownership of Stable Genius, is hosting the TED Radio Hour and IRL, Jen, consulting for a mindfulness app. Is there more? 
In closing, I’ll share a passage I read in an article on collective impact in The Stanford Social Innovation Review last year. Like your work, I leave it and come back. Considering the topics you explore, you might like it.
Pursue dreams instead of good ideas. Only a dream can inspire people to persevere through pain to change together. What sets a dream apart from a good idea?
  • A dream is celebrated by the poor, and unsettles the powerful.
  • A dream invites everyone to the table, including those we don’t like.
  • A dream requires that everyone change, starting with the dreamer.
  • A dream is worth bleeding for, not just working on.
Onward,
Wayne

P.S. In the spirit of gratitude, I thank Janelle Hanchett of Renegade Mothering (and the people from Janelle’s workshop I’m still connected with — they edited) and Erika Schramm of Skylight Coaching here in VT. They all said, “just keep writing.” I listened.

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