About writing

I quickly mentioned the usual resolutions I'm taking every year in my reading list from 2019 here. The one I had the hardest time to figure out has always been the same: writing.

Photo by Anders Nord

Looking at the publishing dates on this blog now frustrates me. The longest streak - with at least one post a month - was from July 2014 to May 2015 [11 months in a row - not bad actually to build a routine] but then, it collapsed. Few posts here & there along the end of 2015 and early 2016 and... nothing until 4 years later: April 2020. I can't even explain how something like this happened. Not a big deal by itself, I can quickly find tons of excuses - mostly related to time, ressources & energy - but still, I haven't succeed to publish anything here.

The interesting thing is: I wrote a lot during these years. As a matter of fact, by the pure amount of words typed a day, I'm surely more of a writer than most of the people in history. All of us probably, typing thousands of words a day through email, slack, different chats & DMs services, few experiments on Medium one day, few tweets and so on so forth. I know I wrote a lot of long-form content actually on our skateboarding mag [it was mostly interviews though]. Still I miss something entirely different: writing my raw-thoughts [no editing, no second read] here on my own blog, my own space on the World Wide Web.

Each year I wondered: why are you still putting that resolution on your list? I felt frustrated. I still am today actually. Even though one way to look at 2020 would be: kudos kev, you succeed to hit the 'publish' button few times this year, you made the hardest part, you awakened your muscle, now you just have to keep it going. Another voice in my head is still shouting: boom, you're a loser, it's still a painful process, you haven't progressed one slice, you're still staring at your screen for too long and you don't really know how to organize your thoughts in a proper manner; I could go on for hours. Fortunately I choose easily the first angle.

This year, I realised that the fist step in order to get back successfully to writing was: giving myself enough time to do it. Like literally I started to block slots in my calendar, on a weekly recurring basis, just to stop everything else, to think, pause, think again, and from there, start to open a draft here and write. I don't mind the outcome [a pusblished article per se], I just celebrate the time to think with no distraction and nothing else to take care about. I knew this. I read a lot about how to form new habits. I succeed re: reading, playing sport, sleeping and so on but somehow, always neglected the same formula for writing. I suspect the medium made it harder. I'm writing on the same computer I'm working with, browsing the web, digging into my feedly, having so much stuff one click away; it was harder to commit compare to sport where once I'm outside on my board for instance, or in a ring with my pair of gloves on, nothing else matters.

Now that I successfully published few posts this year, I can already feel the whole process being easier, my mind fitter, my whole body focusing more on the enjoying part of it rather than the challenges. I know what the next trap is: setting up the expectations too high and getting discouraged. So I'll keep it easy for the rest of the year [way enough challenges this year anyway]; and I'll slowly increase my pace going forward.

2 more things I'd like to add right now. One is my own personal reasons to write:

  • this blog acts as a personal record of my thoughts; it felt great to go back to few stuff I wrote 5 years ago for instance; it was like a true time-machine in my own mind -- exhilerating
  • writing is like fitness for your brain: it helps me organize my thoughts, articulate them better, in one word: it helps me think; it improves my communication skills as well
  • I got convinced very early on to write publicly online [10 years ago by Tristan]; it makes me learn 100x more / faster thanks to others; people react, comment, share, criticize and by doing so, they make me think more deeply, dive deeper, understand more nuances, they literally teach me some stuff
  • over the years, I also met awesome new people -- outside of my 'regular background' growing up let's say

Second is a collection of stuff I read recently about writing that I felt relevant.

  • Why write by my friend Gian. Very well articulated. I can't agree more. By the way, we both write in a language that isn't our mother tongue.
  • 'Like all skills, we improve with practice and with feedback.' by Seth about The simple cure for writer's block

To be continued

Black Lives Matter

I'm enraged by the current situation. I'm deeply sad that we are still guilty of such injustice. I'm concerned by the lack of empathy. I sometimes wonder wether we're truly able to be humanist - as a society.

Now I'm obsessed with one thing everyday when I look at my 1 year-old son: what can I do exactly / what should I show him / how to make sure he's actively & fully part of something much better. I believe my wife and I are capable of such a thing. Actually, we have to succeed. 

Below are first thoughts we had, we'll go through some iterations for sure, we'll need to confront this against reality, to adapt and progress. I read a lot of good intentions these past few weeks but haven't gone through much things towards babies, kids & education as a whole. How school should start tomorrow to teach differently for instance? I haven't read anything impactful on the topic so far; which saddens me. How everyone at home should start right now to raise awareness among the whole family? The list goes on.

I do think that education is key here. After all, as parents [but not only, as grand-parents as well, as godfathers, friends, brothers & sisters, aunts & uncles, teachers, etc.] we do set up examples & give some backgrounds & context for generations to come. My son isn't born racist. I see him today treat 100% equally his black & white friends at kindergarten. If we're not active & intentional though, I'm afraid he might become at some point. Because it's sneaky, it's part of our culture. Let's pause. Writing this hurts me. I want us to change. Then, I want his generation to finally experience a real humanist & peaceful world.

I'd love to know your thoughts on the topic, your realisations too, your own blindspots, your actions. It'll obviously be a continuous work-in-progress on our end.

In no particular order:

  • we want our son to develop strong ties with some black kids; since I don't believe we could force any specific friendship or love; we could influence his environment though; and that's where it becomes a number game at the end. Few areas we're thinking about: geography [which type of neighborhood, city, country are we living in], school, social activities [like personally I met most of my black friends through boxing].
  • this applies to ourselves as well; today our son is playing with a black friend because we met her parents and became friends with them. Though we realised we don't have a lot. Let's be more intentional with this.
  • speak out against anything racist we will hear - always; coming from anyone; 'jokes' included; no matter the context: family, professional, etc. And let's be radical about it.
  • get deeply involved in the historical lessons our kids will get along the way; and always provide few other angles. I remember how enlightening it was for me during my years in Singapore to read & learn about World War II through a South-East Asian angle, it felt like a totally different event [and it was a humbling experience].
  • be extra-careful with the set of aspirational examples he'll get growing up [like these athletes, artists, leaders, entrepreneurs, etc.] - this one looks challenging and will also depend on the geography I think but this is very impactful. Growing up in France in the 90's I realise: highest politicians = all white; leaders in biggest corporations = all white; black people? hmmm... few in the soccer team, few artists here & there - this is bad because it doesn't reflect the reality of the french society.

Photo by Kadir Celep - we used to live in this neighborhood in Berlin

The dinner party of our dreams

I think we bought this book few years ago, while randomly wandering around Berlin. It's called Me, You, Us by Lisa Currie. With such a title, baseline & cover, obviously it caught our eye [& easily convinced us].

We decided to slowly fill it up recently - we set a routine like one page a week more or less and I've to say: this is really fun. One of the latest page was titled: the dinner party of our dreams and the goal was to create the 'guest list'. So the way we approached it was: 'okay we already experienced the most amazing dinner of our lives: our wedding one. Period. But if we got the superpower to invite everyone we wanted right now, what would that guest list look like'.

I want to share it here for few reasons: (a) I'm a deep fan of the 'tell me what you eat/buy/watch, I'll tell you who you are' things so I find that fun here to see what that guest list could tell about me, us, at this moment of our lives (b) because obviously we change over time I wanted to keep it here and be able to get back to it in few years, see who else I might invite (c) I'd find it interesting if some of you would share yours in the comment [or send it to me directly as you prefer].

Here it goes:

  • there are both of us
  • Jesus
  • Magellan
  • Freud
  • Maria Montessori
  • Marie Curie
  • Yuval Harari
  • 2 of our friends
  • Dolores Abernathy

Yep, that's what we could call a fantasy kind of dinner.

Looking at our list right now, I could quickly extract few themes that I know are currently running wild in our own minds and that we find particularly interesting: adventure, myth, cult, education, science, psychology, subconscious, friendship, love, history, rebellion, freedom, change, exploration.

I do think it reflects us. Let's see how it evolves.

Zeng Fanzhi -- The Last Supper, 2001

Love, family and invention

There is a surprising thing I don't succeed to achieve nowadays: listening to podcasts [probably among some other stuff but I'd need to think more about it]. I now realise how much that activity is tight to my commute, be it on a bike or in a bus / subway or just walking [yep, these are my only ways of commuting, no car policy at home -- some Uber rides sometimes but it's only a handful of them a month generally speaking].

Anyway, one of the last one I listened to was a discussion between Andy McCune & David Perell in the North Star Podcast. Okay I'll try to insert it directly at the bottom of this post [yep, be cool, I'm just coming back to this].

One thing struck me -- if you wanna jump right into it, it's happening at 1h37min -- Andy referred to it as something he heard 'from a friend the other night': Love, family and invention. Like his friend would have said 'if I have love, family and I've invented something, that's all I need'.

He explained it as:
- love: feeling you have people who you see, who warm your heart, who make you hair stick up [...] you see them and it's like life is whole when you're with them
- family: people that you trust, people that you know that no matter what happens they're always gonna be with you
- invention: feeling that you're an individual, that you were put on this planet for a reason

And he finally wondered wether 'what if those were just the 3 things to strive for'. I do think there is a kind of wisdom to this. I'm not entirely sure about that 'invention' part - I mean, I'm not sure about that word and if it translates the whole feeling, but I get the point. I like the fact they put creativity in that word, and beyond creativity, they include curation also. At least, that broadens the concept but it doesn't feel enough. It's maybe something more around 'building'. Like, to me, it seems less about if I've invented something rather than if I've built something. This word sounds more team-oriented as well. I'm happy to be a 'cog in the wheel' when that wheel is building some heavy stuff for society. I'm less into individuality actually [maybe that's a cultural difference]. In that regard I can't recomend enough Marc's latest essay: It's time to build. I digress.

Bottom line, thanks to Andy & David for that discussion, I enjoyed it a lot. And in a world that looks more and more complex to the most of us, getting your happiness down to such 3 'basics' [whatever the 3rd word and nuance you pick up] resonates a lot.

What I've read in 2019

I played with the same sort of resolutions the past few years and it always looks liks this: 

  • spend more time with closed friends
  • talk more to the family
  • read more
  • go back to writing
  • more sport

I've tried to be more specific in 2019 and pretty much succeeded in 4 out of these 5 points. Yep, you could easily guess it by looking at the publishing dates on this blog, I haven't written for a while but hey, it's not what I want to talk about this time.

One thing I've nailed down is my reading habit. I told myself last year to read at least 1 book a month [total being 12 at the end of the year - yep I know, I'm good at maths indeed]. I finally read 21 books in total. It made me very happy so I decided to read at least 2 books a month in 2020 [spoiler: I'm heavily on track].

Below's the list [from the first one I read to the last]:

  1. Papa pour la premiere fois [fr]
  2. J'accouche bientot: que faire de la douleur? [fr]
  3. Les gens heureux lisent et boivent du cafe [fr]
  4. Le journal de moi... papa [fr]
  5. Men, Love & Birth [en]
  6. Revenir a Lisbonne [fr]
  7. Barbarian Days: a surfing life [en]
  8. Ce qu'il reste de nos reves [fr]
  9. L'ecologie en bas de chez moi [fr]
  10. Une colere noire: Lettre a mon fils [fr]
  11. Petite Poucette [fr]
  12. L'alchimiste [fr]
  13. L'espionne [fr]
  14. Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline [fr]
  15. Check-point [fr]
  16. L'aventure, le choix d'une vie [fr]
  17. Le rugissant [fr]
  18. Hotel International [fr]
  19. Le grand roman des maths [fr]
  20. Montessori a la maison [fr]
  21. Electrochoc [fr]

Yep there is something funny indeed looking at this list: 5 books are related to birth & parenthood. Quite easy to guess what we went through last year haha. I also realise that I actually read a lot in french - only 2 books were in english - way more than I would have thought first [and this is probably due to the fact I read in english mainly everyday on the web]. 6 books are novels, which isn't bad for someone who never read this type initially [this is changing though]. My family always makes fun of me because they think I only read biographies but this represents only 5 books last year. There is actually one main topic included in most of these titles [parenthood aside]: travel. It's in 10 of these books [including the highest grade I gave]. 2 books are related to music.

I use a french website called SensCritique to keep track of what I read and rate everything [out of 10]. Average of these 21 books is 6.33. I gave two 9/10: J'accouche bientot & Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline. And I gave two 2/10: Papa pour la premiere fois & Le journal de moi... papa. I'm really disappointed so far in everything written for dads anyway. It's like the only angle for men if you want to tackle parenthood somehow is to treat them like dummies. I've no doubt there are great stuff out there but I still have to dig.

So, my top 3 recommendations from last year would be [parenthood aside of course]: (1) Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline (2) L'alchimiste (3) Le grand roman des maths.

Enjoy.

Ali Boulala

pic by Boonphotography

Epicly Later'd is conseidered by many of us like one of the most authentic and relevant skateboard documentaries. The show is produced by Patrick O'Dell and published on Vice.

Latest episode features Ali Boulala. All the 4 parts are online now and this is a must-watch by everyone, not only skateboarders. As Patrick said: "This is a heavy episode, and I want to thank Ali for his honesty".

You dig into Ali's personality right in the introduction. Ali's words: "When I like something a little bit I only wanna do that all the time everyday. If you do one thing only then eventually you get good at it. And that's what happens with skateboarding. I could not not do it all the time everyday because I'm an addict.".

Via these 4 parts you discover the rise and fall of Ali. From the Original Baker Boy to Being a Piss Drunk to The Crash That Ruined Everything to The Life After Skateboarding. Although Ali's story could be viewed as tragic (and like Erik Ellington said: "he has seen the worst") it might serve now as an example for the younger generation and save some lives. RIP Shane.

Off-the-grid lifestyle

This following sentence resonates with me: "People talk about chucking their jobs. They say they will leave behind the madness of the city and hit the road. [...] But nobody ever does it. Nobody. Except for one guy."

"He [Foster Huntington] is an outdoorsman entrepreneur who has invented his own career. The treehouses serve as his home and as an alluring backdrop for advertisements for himself."

You can read the full story here: Escape to Bro-topia.

Meanwhile, enjoy the video. Pretty inspiring.

The Cinder Cone from Farm League on Vimeo.