This week’s random collection of thoughts

Hello, and happy Monday.

First things first: I’ve decided to get back on the writing grind. From now on, I’ll be sending out a newsletter every Monday at 9:00 AM Eastern Time.

If you want to get my writing in your mailbox every Monday, subscribe to the mailing list here. Much obliged.

If you follow me, you’re NOT going to get ‘just’ #chinalife, or tech analysis, or digressions on running 350 kilometers in a single month. Rather, you’re going to get them all, in small Jamesian doses.

I’m done with trying to put my writing into a tiny little box. I’m done with trying to just be “the tech guy” or “the Magic: The Gathering guy” or “the Shanghai lockdown guy” or “the startup entrepreneur.” I belong to three cultures: Canada, Mainland China and Taiwan. I am all of these things.

What’s up with the “random thoughts” this week?

  1. I’m living through a LOT of things in Shanghai right now; my mind is on absolute overdrive. It’s hard to sit down and go “long” on just one topic.
  2. I have several half-baked ideas and don’t know which one deserves more elaboration.

To get me to go “deeper” on any of the thoughts below, let me know. Think of this as a vote-for-what-James-writes-next intervention.

Broadcasting wide vs. narrow

Last week, I wrote about using Twitter, and social media, as a force for good. And my friend J—a thoughtful person—emailed me back.

J doesn’t like social media. J quit social media, including Facebook, several years ago.

J prefers to communicate 1:1, or narrowly.

I use social media about 4,213 times a day. I like it because I’m a content creator.

I prefer to communicate broadly. If even one additional person gets value out of the information, it’s worth it to me.

I like the fact that the newsletter medium lets me exchange ideas with friends like J who are email-only. It’s a real-life example of the value of diversifying communication.

Always be selling

Selling, or the art of influencing others, comes up often. This week I caught myself saying to my colleagues on several occasions: “I’m not a salesperson, but…”

That prefacing statement, in retrospect, feels unnecessary. People aren’t born as salespeople. And salesperson label or not, we have to influence others all the time.

It’s like that Daniel Negreanu meme: “Everything you do at the poker table conveys information.” How we represent ourselves, at all times, says something about our likeability and ability to sell.

Always be selling; there are always buyers.

Why interview? And why be interviewed?

Chuck Klosterman is a brilliant writer. In one of his books, Eating the Dinosaur, he writes about why celebrities choose to be interviewed. What’s there to be gained from it? (Very little, actually, as a whole.)

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to what I do for fun—which is interviewing people.

People wear all kinds of masks. Sometimes it’s neat to peel them away, despite their best efforts to keep them on for dear life.

Other times, the mask is best left on, for the sake of everyone involved.

This is 40

I turned 40 years old this year. In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if things will start to unravel for me at some specific future point in time.

I feel fairly healthy from a mental and physical perspective…knock on wood.

The Stoic school of thought trains us to prepare for certain doom and rapid decay. When will the vengeful universe come to collect its debts?

Shanghai lockdown

The lockdown, and rapid evolution of how we are being treated, is starting to wear me down.

I handled it better in the early days. Now, on certain days, my patience feels like a live wire waiting to snap.

Building a startup

Building a company and witnessing its evolution is a wild, fun ride. It’s rewarding but requires a strong element of self-motivation that takes years to develop and can be yanked away at any moment.

It’s critical for a majority of the startup’s leadership team to share similar values. If they’re not shared, things become harder to navigate.

Values, aligned or not, compound daily. They either bring the team steadily closer together, or steadily farther away.

Take care of yourself, and be well.


If you want to get my writing in your mailbox every Monday, subscribe to the mailing list here. Much obliged.

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