On My Mind | June 2020
June has been a milestone of sorts. In the last month I’ve spent more consecutive time with family than I have since sometime in high school--more than a decade ago. Perhaps hard to believe, but it’s a realization I think about more and more the longer I shelter in place and spend time with my 13 year old nephew. At this point, the three months I spent in Italy in a meditative state of isolation and quarantine feels incredibly distant. This morning (and many mornings over the last month), I feel I can barely hear myself think. As i write this, my nephew is watching The Karate Kid and simultaneously teaching me the qualitative properties of waffles.
As the above suggests, this continues to be a strange offseason. And really, forget the offseason, this continues to be a bizarre year 2020. Off the court (what is that), my mind has been split between current events--a tangle of the pandemic, the economy and the social movements sweeping the nation--and a handful of personal and collaborative projects and endeavors.
When I’m not 20 Safari tabs deep in research and different Google Docs, I’ve been relishing the opportunity to spend time with family (even when it strains my introversion). I’m currently staying near Atlanta, Georgia, and while the state has (to my great concern) been “open” since late April, I’ve been avoiding anything and everything outside like... well, like a pandemic is still going on. The situation is about what I expected as far back as March when I decided to stay in Italy. Outside, unfortunately I don’t anticipate much changing until hospitals start coming under stress. Inside, I’m just thankful to spend time with people I care about.
On the court, the immediate situation remains precarious. Uncertainty about the virus has thrown a number of complications into my normal training schedule. More than any other point in my career, gym access has become a precious commodity. At one point I considered sacrificing my knees and taking to the black top as a last resort. As late as yesterday (June 30), I was ready to resume my usual offseason schedule and brave a flight to New York where I usually train most summers.
Now I find myself scrambling for backups since New York has just announced a shortlist of states from which visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days. Guess what? Georgia is on there with other early-openers like Florida and Texas. Surprise surprise. Renting an apartment for the month, the flight, all that makes a lot less sense with that news. All of that is to say, from a basketball perspective, the situation has been quite frustrating but I’m taking it in stride. With everything happening off the court, it’s silly to see this basketball related issue as anything more than an inconvenience.
In terms of my future on the court, I’ve decided to return to Turkey where I’ve signed with Bahcesehir Koleji Basketbol in the BSL and EuroCup. I played in Turkey two years in the past, one season living in Izmir and another living in Bursa. For my third stint, I’ll be living in Istanbul and getting to learn even more about a city I’ve always loved visiting. I’m looking forward to the new challenges and new growing opportunities. More than anything, I can’t wait to start building and competing with this group. You know the mantra, #unfinishedbusiness.
For now, that’s all. It’s been a mentally and emotionally taxing first month back here in the United States so I wanted to keep this month’s recap relatively brief. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to enjoying time with family, sorting out training logistics and trying to remember what I was doing when I was 13. Despite the state of things, it’s good to be back.
Below I recap the books read this month. I only read two in June but I’ve included the two additional reads I left off my May post. Perhaps some of them will be of interest. As always I appreciate any feedback or recommendations.
“Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard
The Rundown: Yvon Chouinard recaps his incredible journey from vagabond outdoorsman and reluctant businessman to cofounder and CEO of Patagonia.
Some Thoughts: I’ve had a deep respect for Yvon ever since learning about his business and design philosophy a number of years ago. I picked up this book after I was reminded of his story while reading “The One Straw Revolution”.
This read is part memoir and part collection of business principles. Yvon writes about his life, work, and unlikely path to founding and running Patagonia. While the beginning of this read focuses on his apprehension to becoming a businessman, much of this book highlights Yvon’s efforts to align Patagonia with his environmental beliefs and values. Yvon and Patagonia demonstrate that doing good for the world can also do good for the bottom line.This is an excellent read on building a mission driven business without compromising on one's principles. It’s also a fantastic exploration of environmentally conscious design.
Review: How to do more good and not less harm in business. 5/5
Did You Know: In the late 1980s, Yvon committed Patagonia to donate 1% of sales or 10% of pretax profits (whichever was greater) to grassroots environmental efforts each year.
“Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things” by Don Norman
The Rundown: Designer Don Norman follows up his classic “The Design Of Everyday Things” with a deep dive into the emotional component of design that lies beneath form and function.
Some Thoughts: I read “The Design of Everyday Things” for the first time a few years ago, but return to it often even today. I purchased this book after one of those recent flip-throughs. While I certainly enjoyed this read, I think it would be most effective as an addition to its predecessor.
I found the first half of the book most interesting. Here, Norman deconstructs the emotional components of design and how they can enhance the value we derive from a product or service even if it is otherwise unfunctional. He further breaks down the relationship between visceral, behavioral, and reflective design. The author spends a number of pages structuring his arguments around his collection of teapots, some of which have puzzling physical designs but also clever and stimulating stories designed within. Norman also discusses the emotional value we, the users, apply to the different products we use. Think for example of the value you might place on an otherwise cheap, poorly designed souvenir given from a family member.
The latter half of this book is interesting, but a bit of a departure from exploring the essence of design principles. In this section, the author contemplates the future and emotional design within the context of technology and robotics. While a compelling discussion, I think it would have been better served as a separate piece.
Review: A thought provoking read on design, but more valuable as two separate pieces. 3.5/5
Did You Know: In the 1950s, Betty Crocker Company redesigned their cake mix product to require an egg simply because consumers felt “water, mix, bake” was too simple a process.
“Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun” by Reginald Lewis & Blair Walker
The Rundown: Reginald Lewis’ inspiring journey from Baltimore to Harvard Law to Wall Street and wealthiest Black man in America.
Some Thoughts: I’d heard of Reginald Lewis and been recommended this book a number of times in the past, but finally decided to pick this one up and learn the full story. This is a combination of biography interspersed with personal journals from Lewis written before his untimely passing.
Lewis lends his own account of his unlikely climb from Baltimore to the top of the financial world. This is a book about breaking down the barriers of entry in some of the most exclusive circles in education, law, and finance--and doing it as a Black man in America. As the title suggests, Lewis recognized the color of his own skin, but refused to be stopped by the challenges and inequalities structured before him. Before his diagnosis and death from brain cancer at age 50, Lewis would architect and complete (at the time) the largest international LBO in history coming in at just under $1Billion.
Review: A must read. 5/5
Did You Know: Reginald Lewis was the first person admitted to Harvard Law School without ever formally applying. In 1992, his $3 Million donation to HLS was the largest individual donation to the school at the time.
“Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
The Rundown: A collection of tools and resources for getting “unstuck” and reframing life’s challenges.
Some Thoughts: During my senior year at Stanford, I missed out on a popular course called “ME104B Designing Your Life” due to scheduling and over enrollment. Even though I didn’t get in the class (multiple times), the idea of applying design to life planning stuck with me. It’s something that I’ve contemplated and practiced more intentionally even since leaving university. Fast forward several years, I stumbled on this book for a second time and finally put it together that the professor from ME104B is the author. I picked this one up curious to see how my own life design principles, tools and approach I’ve developed over the years stacked up.
This was a fantastic and valuable short read. It’s filled with instructive and actionable tools and exercises for taking ownership of the life design process. The authors anchor this book in two core parts. First are the roles of health, work, play and love as life inventory metrics. The second is the combination of curiosity, bias to action, reframing, awareness, and radical collaboration as tools. I enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to get “unstuck”, preparing to switch jobs or even just looking to be a bit more intentional about life.
Review: A valuable collection of tools and resources. 4/5
Did You Know: In the USA, more than 31 million people between the ages of forty-four and seventy desire an “encore” career for the latter half of life.