Zone 3

Personal/Social Assets, Evolutionary

The quest to improve the human condition requires clarity of purpose. Are there ways that we can strengthen our personal assets base to become a valued crewmember on the journey? How can we help humanity not only solve our current challenges but also boldly go where no one has gone before?

This zone asks you to focus on improving your ability to notice, engage with, and help create the leading edge of innovation that is bubbling up all over the planet. To do so, we encourage you to start from the inside, with self-inquiry and personal development, while also looking outward and tuning in to the accelerating advance of knowledge and innovation.

Key areas of Zone 3 focus

  • Inspiration & Learning
  • Embracing diversity (social, worldview, ecological)
  • Personal/spiritual growth
  • Social change advocacy and nonprofit involvement

The latest in coming to grips with the Anthropecene

This is a one-two punch I couldn’t resist: one of my top-5 journalists recommending a powerful new essay by my favorite “recent discovery” in earth-connected literature.  Even better, Andrew Revkin and Robert Macfarlane are both riffing on one of the juicier umbrella topics for thinking about our rapidly-changing world: the Anthropocene, or the idea that the human mark on the planet is likely to take its place as the latest geological epoch.

Both Revkin and Macfarlane set out to point our attention to the best of the recent writing on this key topic. Revkin, in large part, welcomes Macfarlane’s recent piece as a chance to take a break from his regular dips into the recent literature, but he adds a few of his own recent faves at the end of his column.  By contrast, Macfarlane’s extended essay in The Guardian presents a rich and complex introduction to the topic.  You couldn’t find a better starting point (just as you couldn’t find a better deep-dive for learning about the field than those regular dips collected on Revkin’s site).  Here’s a first taste, then click through for more excerpts:

There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Conservationists, environmentalists, policymakers, artists, activists, writers, historians, political and cultural theorists, as well as scientists and social scientists in many specialisms, are all responding to its implications.

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On micro-ambition: a bit of Zone 3 for a Tuesday morning

While much of what we share here features innovative community initiatives or leading-edge financial world developments, it’s important to remember the foundational role of the top row of the Resilient Investing Map, your Personal Assets.  And up there, most of our energy goes into Zone 1 (family, health, relationships) and Zone 2 (work and lifestyle).  So here’s a little nudge to keep some juice flowing in your Zone 3  as well (personal/spiritual growth, learning, inspiration).

This recent essay from James Shelley is the sort of thing that can be worth a few minutes of your time; we recommend that you find a few channels of inspiration and insight that you can turn to on a regular basis, ones that take you out of your normal areas of expertise and personal or career focus, and offer the chance to think anew about how you’re shaping your life.

Here, Shelley fleshes out a concept dubbed micro-ambition, a “passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals:”

To be ‘micro-ambitious’ means embracing the present opportunity — whatever it is — and making of it everything you can. After all, just as the present is a coalescence of your past so far, rest assured that the next thing will be built on the foundations you lay today. So build well. Go ‘all-in’ on whatever opportunity you have now. ….

The next opportunity worthy of your attention will probably show up in your peripheral vision, some unpredictable consequence of having “put your head down” to invest your best effort in the present enterprise. Micro-ambition is all about focusing on projects… not crossing some imaginary, arbitrarily defined ‘finish line’ in the future.

Being dedicated evolutionaries, we like this nugget: “Micro-ambition assumes from the outset that continual learning and self-reinvention are par for the course.”  He goes on:

Regardless of where your paycheque comes from, do you think of life as a racetrack or a labyrinth? Are your current projects a means to an end, or a chapter in a twisting, unpredictable plot? In reality, of course, these are not absolute dichotomies. (There are plenty of careerists who leverage their position to create incredible opportunities and plenty of freelancers who fret over the legacy of their careers.) This is ultimately a question of attitude. How do you approach the present?

This sort of reflection may seem like a distraction, or useless philosophizing, especially if it’s coming in from an angle that isn’t quite in your usual wheelhouse.  But making immediate practical use of new perspectives isn’t always the point.  The more important payback from time invested in stepping off your usual trail and taking in something unexpected is that making a habit of doing so will, over time, introduce some other pathways that you do find a deep resonance with, ones that continue to shape your life over time.  This is the delight and reward of your Zone 3 investments; they don’t all pay off, but the ones that do are especially valuable.

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Best of 2015 from Stockholm Resilience Centre

Scandinavians have grappled with social challenges more diligently than most of the rest of the world, and it’s no different in the realm of resilience.  The Stockholm Resilience Centre has long been the global leader in researching and teaching about the nuts and bolts of what resilience is and what it can offer to communities, planners, and the world.  They’ve just compiled their most-requested new papers of 2015, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better syllabus for getting up to speed with the most current municipal experiments and global thinking in resilience.  Topics range far and wide, with a special emphasis on recent practical attempts to implement resilience, along with the important question of how we can or should assess or measure resilience.  If you’re active in local or regional resilience planning or Transition Town programs, you really do need to jump on over to the SRC website and peruse this collection.

Here’s a taste of the topics covered; their site includes a full-page summary of each one, some with video and most with a sidebar of related papers and links:

  • Learning to apply resilience: First in-depth analysis of a resilience assessment put into practice
  • Don’t fence me in: Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire, new study warns
  • Beyond measure?: Reducing resilience to a few measurements can block deeper understanding
  • Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
  • Five factors for successful management of natural capital: Strategies for successful governance, for both people and ecosystems

Kudos to the Centre both for funding this important work, and for offering such complete summaries of each paper to help guide visitors to the ones that are most relevant for them.  Great work!

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Mindfulness tied to higher personal resilience

A new research paper has added resilience to the qualities that are enhanced in those who practice mindfulness—that is, maintaining a non-judgemental awareness of the present moment.  The concept has roots in Buddhism and meditation, though simpler forms of “mindfulness training,” stripped of most of Buddhism’s conceptual framework, have spread widely in recent years, aiming to harness the benefits of in-the-moment awareness in the workplace and in daily life.

In the study, recently summarized in Pacific Standard, participants’ personal resilience was measured via ten self-descriptive statements, including “able to adapt to change,” “can stay focused under pressure,” and are “not easily discouraged by failure.” The researchers concluded:

Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down.

Consider this yet another nudge in the direction we encouraged in the “Qualities of the Resilient Investor” section of our book: maintaining some sort of centering practice is, for many, a key foundation for cultivating personal resilience. From Chapter 6, Be Ready for Anything:

Over the course of a life, some combination of counseling, spiritual practice, participation in men’s or women’s groups, membership in a church community, professional development programs that include an emotional/reflective element, and extended immersions in the natural world with like-minded friends will serve to deepen your self-awareness and help clarify all the choices that present themselves to you.

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Stories to show us the way: Cli-fi on the rise

As readers of The Resilient Investor will know, we are always on the lookout for stories and movies that can help us envision the many different possible futures that we need to be readying ourselves for.  So it was with some excitement that I followed a series of links on “cli-fi” after completing the post about how Margaret Atwood’s Everything Change essay can inform resilient investors’ life choices.  The term was familiar to me (“climate fiction,” a growing topic within sci-fi), and the first couple of books I’d happened upon in the genre had piqued my interest.  Now, after spending a half-hour of clicking through from Atwood’s original link, I’ve got a reading list, reviews, and even a syllabus if I want to really dive in.  This post will share enough to get you started, too.

Let’s start with a few words from Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the better-known authors in this field:

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Virtual reality as an “empathy machine” and force for good?

Virtual reality.  For those of us who still enjoy THIS world, the idea of opening the floodgates of truly immersive virtual reality can seem like the ultimate triumph of the screen-mediated life, an abandonment of the core virtues of human relationship.  If computers have sucked us further down the rabbit hole than TVs, then won’t these new systems—covering our eyes and ears, even stimulating our vestibular responses—create even more separation between us?  Not necessarily, say a slew of folks who are tracking this nearly-inevitable and soon-to-arrive evolution of computer technology.  Check out this collection of videos and articles from SingularityHUB, all of which explore the ways that more immersive virtual reality interfaces could actually increase our empathy and engagement, rather than leading to atrophy of these core aspects of being human.  The promise here starts with recent studies on “mirror neurons” and goes on to ways that empathy-sparking VR could deepen journalism and enliven civic engagement.  A real mind-bender for any of us with lingering Luddite tendencies.

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Manual for Civilization gathers books for future ages

Perhaps the most practically valuable project of The Long Now Foundation—not to discount its 10,000-year clock or its fantastic lecture series—is the library they’re putting together, dubbed in classic Brand-ian grandeur the Manual for Civilization.  While they’re working to gather volumes onto the shelves at Long Now’s cafe-cum-community-space The Interval, we can all dig into the “key books” lists submitted by the organization’s global network of allies.  Take a peek:

Brian Eno – A list of books on long-term thinking
Stewart Brand – Books selected from his personal libraries
Neal Stephenson – A selection of useful history books
Violet Blue – Books on human sexuality
Kevin Kelly – A huge list of appropriate technology and other books from his library
Danny Hillis – Selections from his home and work libraries
Ami Burnham – A collection of the best books on reproduction and birth
Alex Steffen – Books on Futurism
Bruce Sterling – Science Fiction
David Brin – Science Fiction
Maria Popova – “33 Books on How to Live”
Mark Pauline – Fiction, History, Mechanics reference

See this link for the initial announcement of the project, including all the lists noted above; and this link for the archives of posts on the project since then, which features coverage of similar projects by others, including a new book called The Knowledge: Rebuilding Our World From Scratch and Future Library, a hundred-year art project that’s starting now by planting the trees on which a hundred books will be printed in 2114, the books being written one per year between now and then (the first is by Margaret Atwood).

Integral Life Practice

Integral Life Practice is an evolutionary tool that provides a foundational framework and set of practices to gain more perspective and transform all aspects of your life: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Created by well-known author and teacher Ken Wilber, the website provides access to a Practice kit as well as audio and video tools, books, forums, etc, all in pursuit of developing a comprehensive approach to life. Visit website.

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Book: “Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea.”

Carter Phipp’s book Evolutionaries surveys evolutionary thought with the aim of integrating our understanding of how a new “evolutionary” perspective can integrate consciousness, cosmology, and evolution, building bridges between the physical sciences and spiritual traditions. Builds on Ken Wilber’s integral theory/worldview. Visit the book’s website.

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Self-tracking tools on the Quantified Self website

The Quantified Self website is an Evolutionary tool, a collaboration of users and makers of self-tracking tools, with the aim of helping people derive meaning from their personal data. The website is part of Quantified Self Labs, a California-based company founded by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, which offers all kinds of tools and events in support of the Quantified Self. Visit website.

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Radical generosity can change the world

This TEDx talk by Nipun Mehta asks what would the world look like it we designed it for generosity? Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace (formerly Charity Focus), an incubator of projects that works at the intersection of volunteerism, technology and gift-economy. What started as an experiment with four friends in the Silicon Valley has now grown to a global ecosystem of over 350,000 members that has delivered millions of dollars in service for free. Watch the YouTube video.

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