David Brooks' Philosophy of Stumbling

A friend recently shared with me the latest David Brooks column in the NYTimes. The full article, The Moral Bucket List focuses on a lot of new-age career anxieties that I hear (and to be honest, talk about myself) often. I found three bits particularly resonant:

1) Resume Virtues vs Eulogy Virtues
As Brooks defines them, "resume virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. Eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral - whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful."

2) The Gap Between the Actual Self and the Desired Self
"But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet."

As far as I can tell, this gap has always existed for the overwhelming majority of the population. The desire and strive to close that gap is more indicative of a rich depth of character than actually having that gap closed. I believe Brooks gets to this when he discusses the philosophy of stumbling in his conclusion. 

3) The Philosophy of Stumbling
"The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be. Unexpectedly, there are transcendent moments of deep tranquillity. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, the stumbler looks out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and is overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated her much better than she deserves."

This is easier said than done, especially in a place like New York City (or San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Boston, or any other bustling metropolitan area bursting with professional ambition). But at the core of the Philosophy of Stumbling, what I enjoy most is the re-definition of ‘better’ as something that is derived from a carefully constructed set of individual values. Socially deconstructed and from within.

Random Sidenote: once a month seems like a considerably high frequency to be running into people radiating ‘inner light’, but major kudos to whatever you're doing with your daily commute, Mr. Brooks.

Thanks for sending along, Anand. 

New Project: Boombox The Podcast

"Hey, I can do that."

Perhaps the five most dangerous words anyone has ever said upon observing a piece of work being done. 

Well, six months ago, my friends Samir, Anand and myself said these exact words. At the time, we were listening to podcasts. Plenty of them. So we spent the resulting half-year learning how to record audio, how to edit audio, and most importantly, how to speak in a clear manner and with enough personality to sustain a listener over 45 minutes of thought provoking dialogue. 

Now, I'm excited to present the first episode of Boombox The Podcast

Boombox is about longform discussion in a shortform world. Mostly, Samir, Anand and I felt like all too often we'd be swiping through our news feeds. An article would go viral, we'd see the flippant commentary, and then we'd think to our respective selves, "Hmm. I wish I could have a longer conversation about that."

We also felt like there was this consensus about Millenials. And the consensus held that Millenials valued shortform informational transactions - tweets, six-second Vine videos, and three sentence customer reviews. But there's a large percentage of the Millenial demo who still value longform conversation, Socratic methods of dialogue, and even debate. 

Boombox is our attempt to bring that conversation to an audience willing to listen. I hope you'll be one of those people. Each week we'll pick one news trend and examine it through all angles. In the past few weeks as we've developed 'rehearsal episodes', we've looked at tweets immediately following Transparent's Golden Globes acceptance speeches. We listened to other podcasts reporting on gentrification, and we even asked strangers what they think about modern love and the quickest way to fall in love, when Mandy Len Catron's NYTimes piece went viral. 

And if you think the Boombox namesake is in homage to arguably most famous and greatest modern movie romance, you're entirely correct. Maybe we'll explain that homage in an episode one day. Only one way to find out...