Newsletter

Good Work—Edition Nº 9

A hand-curated newsletter devoted to exploring how we choose to spend the 90,000 hours that will make up our careers.
Andy Sparks
▪︎ 12 minutes read time

🎶 Traveling Alone by Jason Isbell

Our brave hero prepares to face the world of work.

I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don’t care about them. You are not alone.Kurt Vonnegut*

A few weeks back, a friend of mine asked me a question over text. “Now that you are where you are in your career, fairly established, how do you think about building your network and furthering those relationships? Or is it mostly a byproduct of what Holloway needs?” What a lovely question to ask and what a delightful one to answer.

But it begins with some immediate bristling. See, I could do without the word network. The way we might hear a Midtown Uniform say, “Totally, bro, I’ma batcall my network,” it’s a flippant way to describe real people with real lives and real goals and real feelings as commodities we can go shopping for in some theoretical Target that carries people and favors instead of orange juice and premium mediocre blankets.

Over the years, I’ve developed this idea of what I call fellow travelers, not a network, not relationships I’ve built, not my “tribe.” Sure, there’s all the people in various places on my Life Mountain, but I believe what people are really asking about when they ask about networks is how they find more people to fall in love with. We meet fellow travelers at dysfunctional work functions and places of play. They’re the people who share our values. The ones we feel at ease with. The ones we call when we somehow have an open night and want to be real with someone who’s real.

How do you find fellow travelers and keep them traveling with you? When I was twenty-fiveish, I wrote out my values. The first cut was decent. I valued risk-taking, mastery, and curiosity. Over the years, “People who don’t take themselves too goddamned seriously!” has risen to be the quality I value most in friends or colleagues. When you take yourself too seriously, you can’t take a joke, you can’t take feedback, your ego drives you, and I just don’t want to spend my life ride seated next to folks who’ve wound themselves up so tight that they can’t appreciate the absolute and utter absurdity of the experience of being alive. People I met who didn’t take themselves too seriously made my traveling feel less alone.

Listing out what you value most in yourself and want to see shared by others, or qualities you’re struggling to attain or ways of being you simply appreciate can be helpful when looking for fellow travelers. Here are a few more of mine:

  • Believe in giving assholes a run for their money
  • Are interested in leaving the planet better than we found it
  • Love learning, reading, absorbing knowledge
  • Are willing to abandon certitude in the face of new evidence
  • Demonstrate character and respect
  • Are willing to take risks

Building your filter helps you recognize these people when you meet them. But finding them is hard enough, so when you do, don’t miss the opportunity to reach out. Follow them on Twitter? Interact! See someone’s work on YouTube you admire? Find their email and tell them (this is how I met the Michael Marantz). Go to conferences. Make it your goal to meet one person at the entire conference whom you think you could be friends with for more than ten years. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade. It’s been the single most valuable tool I’ve sussed for finding fellow travelers.

Finally, this is a newsletter about work, Good Work. Find your fellow travelers, but don’t stop at falling in love with them. Start making things with them. Make a short film. Throw a monthly dinner. Buy a canvas, some paint, some firecrackers, and a six pack and see where Sunday takes you. Ask your fellow travelers for help. Show them your writing. Share your goals about doing that thing you’d do if only you had the time. Do business with these people. And when they share their goals, do your best to make them your goals. Hell, that’s what they’d do for you, right?

This Week

FELLOW TRAVELERS

  • In “A Short History of 52 Cups,” Megan Gebhart shares the highlights of her super rad idea to meet a different person for coffee every week for 52 weeks. At the end of each coffee, Gebhart would ask for recommendations for her next cups. Spoiler: her last cup of coffee was with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. For anyone nervous about finding fellow travelers, I love the idea of starting with 52 cups like Gebhart did.
  • Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant is one of my all-time favorite books. He describes three reciprocity styles: givers, matchers, and takers. I look for givers. If you think you get the gist of this book, please still read it.
  • This week is a week of all-time favorites. Another favorite of mine is “Most People Won’t,” by Bryce Roberts. Meeting fellow travelers often means taking a risk. Reach out. Say hi. Tell someone you love their tattoos, their funky flowery shirt. Ask that person you met at a party to get together for a coffee or a beer and tell them you like hanging out. I know this sounds trivial but man this is life.
  • Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, is one of a few folks this year who have pointed out the value of telling someone when you appreciate their work. The first person I remember telling I loved their work was Michael Marantz (here’s the email). Since then, we’ve developed a hell of a friendship and he’s one of my favorite people. We even made a thing together. So tell people when you love their work. The worst thing that can happen is they don’t respond. Hat tip to Alex DeBrie for helping me find Patrick’s tweet.

GOOD WORK

On that note, we’d like to give a few shout outs to Good Work we’ve recently come to admire.

  • The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero is an absolutely stunning digital presentation of a book. Not only is the experience impressive and beautiful, the content of the book is pretty darn good too. Thanks for being awesome, Frank.
  • The Monocle Guide to Good Business is a $60 book. It’s a lot of cheddar for a book, and it’s probably not for everyone. But it is beautiful, we appreciate the long list of folks at Monocle who worked on this, and I’ve loved flipping through it over the last two weeks. Hat tip to Brandon Myint for telling me about it.
  • Onym is a strange bird of a website. At Holloway, we pride ourselves on building resources that are 10x more comprehensive and helpful than anything else on a subject, so we kind of know “comprehensive” when we see it. Onym, “Tools and resources for naming things,” is comprehensive, very comprehensive. Thanks to Greg Leppert and Willem Van Lancker for making it and hat tip to Marc Hemon for texting me about it this week.
  • Other people who I’ve come to love following on Twitter lately: Brianne Kimmel, Anna Gát, Tyler Willis, & Dan Shipper.

That’s Good Work for this week. Looking forward to what’s next.

Andy and the Holloway Team

Good Work is written and curated by Andy Sparks, Courtney Nash, Dmitriy Kharchenko, Hope Hackett, Joshua Levy, and Rachel Jepsen.

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Good Work

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