Issue #48
#48 - The best things we read (and watched!) in 2022
December 16, 2022

What's up, everybody?

Another week, another end-of-year special from your TalentStories curators: recommendations of the best world of work content that we came across in 2022.

But first, an update: we’re taking a break over the holidays, and won’t send issues in the last two weeks of the year. I’m in New York with family, and Usman is Pakistan, where he’s getting married. 😀 We’ll pick up the newsletter and the podcast in the new year!

Speaking of the podcast, episode #2 is here, and in it, Usman and I debate and discuss our TalentStories of the year. We managed to record a crisp, 13-minute episode, with a discussion that wasn’t in the newsletter last week (issue #47). Check it out, and let us know what you think!

On to our stories this week, which are recommendations of the three best pieces of work-related content that we consumed in 2022:

  • A bold, unsparing speech that argues that the key to leadership -- is to learn to be alone with our own thoughts
  • A fantastic HBO series on what it would be like if we couldn’t bring any of ourselves to work
  • A wonderful, mind-expanding read on how digital media are changing the nature of time, history and narrative

We hope you might get to take some of these in during the end-of-year downtime. Thanks again for exploring with us this year, and all the best for a wonderful holiday, and a happy and healthy 2023! 🕊️ ❤️

Aki + Usman

Story #1

#Leadership #Solitude #Courage

William Deresiewicz is the author of, among other books, “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, and the Way to a Meaningful Life”. The quote above is from a talk he delivered in 2009 to “plebes” -- freshman cadets -- at the United States Military Academy at West Point; students who would go on to become commissioned officers in the U.S. army.

The talk holds nothing back as it bemoans the sad state of modern leadership: technical, specialized, and bureaucratic, but lacking in courage and vision. The issue, Deresiewicz explains, is a system that rewards achievement, but produces, well, "excellent sheep: great kids trained to be world-class hoop jumpers.”.

The antidote, according to Deresiewicz, is to learn to be alone with your thoughts: to learn to listen to yourself; to think independently, creatively, and flexibly. So that you can find the courage to act on what you believe in those moments of truth. In other words, so that you can lead.

Story #2

#DystopianOfficeThriller #BringYourselfToWork

Severance is a sci-fi series from HBO and Ben Stiller. The main character Mark, is an employee of a futuristic mega-corporation, who agrees to a "severance" program that surgically divides his personal memories from his work memories. The dystopian show follows him on a journey to figure out the truth behind his and his colleagues’ jobs.

At a time in which the world acrimoniously debates the extent to which we should bring none -- or all, or most -- of ourselves to work, Severance is a helpful thought experiment that takes the “bring none of ourselves” approach to the extreme.

But it’s also just a fun, well-made thriller; alternatively dark, mind-bending, thought-provoking -- and funny. Take, “Ricken”, a sort of comedic, new-age blowhard who also doses us with gems like these:

"You think you need your job. But your job needs you, not the other way around."

“Our job is to taste free air. Your so-called boss may own the clock that taunts you from the wall, but, my friends, the hour is yours.”

Story #3

#DigitalMedia #TheNatureOfTime #Narrative

Aaron Z. Lewis designs digital products and writes about media and culture. He penned this essay in 2020, and it’s here in part because readers are unlikely to stumble onto it otherwise.

But if story #1 urges us to find the quiet (and often non-digital) time and space in which to reflect and lead; and if #2 is about using digital technology to erase our non-work selves; then #3, here, helps us understand the digital world in which we spend more and more time. Which is also the digital world in which we do more and more work. The essay is an ambitious read that puts things like memes, the media, communities, time and history into often arresting context. No small feat. ✌🏻

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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