The Insider - September 2022
On Patagonia, our relationship to time, sincerity, the 4-day workweek, and brothers
Welcome to the September edition of the Insider. Do you know someone who would enjoy the Insider? Forward this email to them and they can subscribe here.
Like many, I’m excited about the announcement that Patagonia’s founder Yvonne Chouinard is giving away his company to fight the climate crisis. It's a creative approach that avoids the traditional perils of company exits and succession plans, but it's also presented as the only available route for someone who distrusts other investors and shareholders to do what is right in the long-term. Patagonia's new jerry-rigged structure is so unique that it's unlikely to gain broader adoption with other mission-driven companies. It's simply hard to break out of the existing legal and corporate structures that define our institutions and ownership rights.
We are often not aware of how powerfully our legal structures drive organizational outcomes. I saw this at Uncharted working with both early-stage nonprofits and for-profits. The biggest predictor of strategy, impact, staffing, growth, and funding was the legal structure chosen at the beginning. We tend to apply our imagination to the things that happen within legal and governance structures: the mission, the strategy, the product, but we often lack imagination about how to better design the structures themselves. This is why I'm interested in innovations at the structural level: blockchain technology that explores new ways of organizing and ownership, the Long-Term Stock Exchange, deliberative democracy. To make sound long-term decisions downstream, we often need to work upstream at the structural level.
For most of my life, I've thought of time as a resource to be used or an input to be optimized. It is the space I use to fulfill my plans and the thing I convince myself I must control. In his book, Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman suggests that our complicated relationship to time started when we shifted our understanding of time as simply “the stuff life was made of,” as it was understood in the medieval era, to a resource to be used, which then led us to feel all kinds of pressure about if we were using it well. Burkeman hints – rather unhelpfully — that instead of using time, we might consider letting time use us. When time is not ours to use but ours to inhabit, we might let ourselves be carried forward simply by the invitations of circumstance. That sounds nice, but what about all of us who have jobs and kids and errands and clients? I think our mistake with time is not that we consider it a resource, but rather that we apply this time-as-a-resource model into the moments like a lazy Saturday morning or time with our kids, which are ill-suited for such an approach. When we ask ourselves, what kind of approach to time does this moment call for, we're able to rise to the occasion and find ourselves better able to experience what's before us.
There is an undeniable sincerity in the words of French Philosopher Albert Camus when he said “Live to the point of tears.” To do so is to live with such openness that we find ourselves at the outer edge of our sincerity, and this is often how I felt as an entrepreneur. There is no time to join the chorus of those who critique, no time to grow righteous in our efforts to disapprove. Being an entrepreneur means continuing to build, even when we find ourselves at that point of tears, even when the slightest prick can open up our vast, unknown tenderness. I’ve been noticing how my sabbatical has been a chance to ease back from the edge of that sincerity, to find myself less exposed. It has me wondering if our sincerity moves in seasons, and if we ought to let it follow its peculiar course as it recedes and winters, only to bloom in its own springtime. To constantly live at the edge of our sincerity is to deny the seasonality of ourselves. It takes the time that it takes to fall in love, to conjure those tears, to let the sincerity well-up within us, nudging us out into the world again.
Can you help?
- Next week I'm launching a newsletter for leaders and teams focused on the future of work. It’s based on the concept of culture- and company-building as an ongoing fitness that is continually practiced and refined. So, every other week, I’ll send out a stretch (an idea to consider), an exercise (an action to take), and a weigh-in (a trend or relevant current event). Interested? Sign up here.
- The 4-day workweek is gaining momentum with hundreds of companies piloting it this year. If you’re interested in running a 4-day workweek pilot, or if you know of another company who might be interested, respond here and I’ll send you a free Start Guide that will walk you the early steps in considering the 4-day workweek.
What I am reading
- The monkey shortage. The stunning importance of primate research for the state of science in America. Here.
- Decarbonization is the next industrial revolution. A thesis on investing in climate tech companies. A letter from Voyager.
- A lament about intergenerational downward mobility, the financial burdens of younger generations, and what’s needed to redefine the American Dream. Here.
- The demand for metals to power the clean energy transition. The law, the data, and the companies at the frontier of oceanic imperialism and extraction. Here.
- Do we need to reinvent capitalism to decarbonize our economy? What progressives get wrong about tackling climate change. Here.
What I am writing
I’ve been writing a few articles for Quartz this month:
- The Prioritization Problem
- 7 leadership habits to improve prioritization
- The Employee Playbook for Prioritizing
- Building company cultures that prioritize
- How personal user guides help teams perform
- A 4-step framework for managing up
Every year, my brother and I take a brothers’ trip. Ryan lives across the country in Washington DC and it can be hard to keep up on a regular basis (he’s an entrepreneur too, building Meto). This weekend we’re in Boston to explore, eat the best food, and invest in our relationship as peers, friends, and brothers. One of life’s great joys and surprises is to continue to discover delightful new parts of the people we think we know best.