Airbnb had 25% layoffs this past week. People were speculating internally for a while, but I didn’t really process that it could actually happen. I had a bunch of recruiting friends and really talented software engineer friends who were laid off. There’s so much to say that I can’t manage to eloquently say anything about it.
I was really grateful when I found out I wasn’t going to be laid off, but it was ambivalent too. The prospect of staying was also surprisingly difficult. It felt like [spoilers!] Black Widow and Hawkeye trying to figure out how they would get the Soul Stone. That day, it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. It was my birthday, so I went on a longer run to Georgetown, but I had seen a Slack thread where nearly everyone on a team I worked closely with shared that they were being laid off. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Over the next few days, I learned of more and more people leaving, people who played a large role in my day-to-day work and who were helping to shape our office culture (the other leader in our local social impact group, many of my partners in affinity groups, folks in our Christians group, etc). It stuck with me a lot more than I thought it would, which I guess is how you know you were actually part of a community. It was all far more personal than I anticipated.
I’ve been reading a book called The Common Rule by Justin Earley (the author was a missionary to China who then became a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in Virginia). The title is a play off of the term “rule of life”, which was a term in the Christian church as early as the 4th century to describe small different ways for Christians to live to apply their faith. (For example, Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, preached over this and came up with this rule of life for its congregants.) The book is called “The Common Rule” because it’s a proposal for a rule of life for common people today. The idea is that it’s small things that can become habits and cornerstones for your schedule - praying at 3 key moments in the day, turning your phone off for an hour a day, having a meal with someone every day, having a quality conversation with someone once a week, etc.
The argument is that up to 40% of our actions are habits, and the brain optimizes habits so it’s not totally cognitively engaged. It’s like you’re on auto-pilot. And habits aren’t neutral - they shape us in some way, and there’s some underlying thing they indirectly lead us to worship. So we need to observe them and design them to help us become who we want to become.
Before this, I was re-reading Andy Crouch’s The Techwise Family. He also talks about how you can design your life and your environment to nudge you in a certain direction, and how everything should have its proper place (for example, technology is in its proper place when it’s used with intentionality, to accomplish something, and in a way that brings people together). The most memorable statement he makes is that we should put our phones to sleep before we do, and we should wake up before our phones do.
I’ve been putting some of these ideas into practice over the last few years (I’m sure we all are constantly in this sort of feedback loop). I quit Twitter last year. One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to be off of Facebook for at least 100 days total. I occasionally curate my Instagram feed and tell Youtube when I don’t like their suggestions. I delete apps and rearrange my home screen, I disable notifications and unsubscribe from mailing lists. I pay attention to my Apple ScreenTime statistics. I try to bias for longer-form content.
For Lent earlier this year, I decided to keep my phone out of my bedroom at night, so that I wouldn’t be on my phone right before I sleep or right after I wake up. I’ve had so many restless and counterproductive nights over the last decade because I’ve stayed up scrolling for something to read or see.
I try to go on walks with Nora at the end of the work day without my phone so I can focus on spending time with her and digitally unplug. I rearranged our living room so that the focal point was not the TV, but a large empty space where we can dance and play.
After reading The Common Rule, I spent my first day in who knows how many years staying off my phone. I felt more present and felt more engaged in work the next day, after taking a rare, complete disconnect from work.
John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry just came in the mail today, so that’s what I’m reading next, which also fits into the theme of this batch of books - “how should we design our lives in this current time [a digital age characterized by the allure of infinite knowledge and social connection] to be distinctly Christian?” (From Trevin Wax’s book This is our Time, this is the same temptation that Adam and Eve faced - a desire to displace God - by changing who we are and what we know.)
My running has slowed down a bit. I adopted a pre-run routine of leg swings to help warm up my hips and groin, which has made a big difference in mitigating those pains. But stuff at work was getting a bit busier, my runs were becoming more monotonous (because I’ve been running the same local streets to try to avoid people), and the weather’s been getting hotter (it’s 84 degrees right now).
It was my birthday this past week! We had Katsu Burgerfor dinner, Klondike bars for dessert, and I took a slower longer run to Georgetown (6 miles in heat). Nora water-colored me a painting!
I’m finally starting to work on my Boba Life app again (to give you an idea how much time I spend on this app - I’ve had the code open for a total of 100 minutes in the last 3 months… so… about one episode’s worth of Crash Landing on You, which Suzi and I finished a few weeks ago). I’m starting to remove the social network components of the app and consolidating around a few user stories - “I want to track how much boba I drink” and “I want to find boba shops near me”. I’m also just having fun modernizing it a bit (for example, I originally wrote most of the code on old versions of React and Expo, and before working more extensively in Apollo and GraphQL).
I also just recently bought a new coffee brewer - a Hario V60 (white, ceramic, size 02) - and I’ve been really happy with my first few brews. The wooden handle on my Chemex recently broke and I simultaneously ran out of filters, so I started thinking about getting something new. I had no idea there were so many pourover devices on the market. I tried to do some research, but eventually just got overwhelmed and just went with the V60 for its name recognition. Besides employing a much finer grind, I’ve been doing everything the same as I had with a Chemex, so I need to take the time to learn better practices specific to the V60. But that’s fun/exciting.
Tangent from The Common Rule - I am trying to stop substituting coffee for lunch. The author makes a strong point that if we treat food only as fuel, we end up treating our bodies only as machines, or our lives only as the results we drive. So we should slow down and enjoy good food, because our lives are so much more than how much work we can do, it’s about sharing relationships, enjoying God’s creation, the artistic expression of cooking, etc.
Thanks for reading this far!
Here’s a few of the things I’ve been listening to: