It’s one year from today and you’re standing in a room.
The room is crowded with people. Many of them are looking at you. Some are taking pictures of you. Yet you feel completely at ease. You belong here. This is for you.
People are smiling. You’re smiling too. You realize that you’re standing on a raised platform and that you’re holding something in your hands. The thing you’re holding is the reason everyone is here. It’s something you did or were a part of and are being recognized for.
Imagine this scene in your mind. Hear the noise of the room. Feel the energy of the moment. Be there.
Now look down: what is the thing that you are holding?
Is it an object? An award? Someone’s hand?
Look at it. Get to know it. Get a feel for it.
Hold it in your mind.
When I design experiences like this one, I start by trying it myself.
When I first tried the exercise above, I pictured myself standing in a room surrounded by people I respected. The object in my hands was a book. On its cover was the title The Bento Method.
This vision took me by surprise. I was planning to write a book about the Bento, but not with this title, and I hadn’t made it a priority in any serious way.
The feeling from the exercise was so strong and the vision so clear I felt compelled to follow through. Inspired, perhaps, by the Long Self theories of Eric Wargo — which proposes that our subconscious and our instincts are messages sent by our future selves — I decided to honor this vision by exploring how I could make it real.
And I did.
Last week — three months after creating this exercise — I completed the first draft of The Bento Method book. I did it using tools that the book itself teaches and that this exercise is an example of. There’s more work to be done, but the process has been surprisingly smooth. It’s like I’m collaborating with my future self to make the vision real.
In our upcoming emails, we’ll explore the tools I’m using to make my vision a reality so that you can do the same. Until then, give this exercise a try and see what possibilities emerge.
What I’m reading and thinking about this week
Identity and Empathy with Ayishat Akanbi and Rebel Wisdom: One of my favorite Twitter follows is Ayishat Akanbi, a UK-based woman who writes and speaks about identity and self in remarkably clear ways. This is a fascinating conversation with Rebel Wisdom about race, gender, and individuality. Highly recommended.
The New Frontier of Belonging by Tina He: I appreciated several things about this smart piece, including using the phrase “frontier” when describing emerging social behaviors shows how these are spaces yet to be defined and ripe for experimentation. A good read.
How to Build a Bird Kite by Laurel Schwulst: On the surface, this transfixing video piece by artist and designer Laurel Schwulst is a guide for how to make a kite out of everyday household items. Beneath the surface, it’s an invitation to engage with the world on a hyper-present level, reminding us that everything around us can be made dreamy and lifted by air. The person behind the piece is my longtime Bento collaborator — she’s behind the Bentoism website and all the visual elements of the Bento to date. She also might have the best personal website on the internet.
Book I’m reading this week
I’m re-reading this amazing book that recounts the careers of the great American indie rock bands of the 1980s like the Minutemen, Fugazi, Black Flag, Husker Du, and a half-dozen others. The book is exceptionally well-reported and written by a great writer, Michael Azerrad (my former boss!). What stands out reading it today is how entrepreneurial indie and punk were. These bands were making music too weird or noisy to have a mass audience, so they were forced to build their own infrastructure to follow through on their vision. DIY, or Do It Yourself, was the essence of punk. Be self-reliant because the mainstream can’t be trusted. Learn how to do everything yourself. Don’t be above any job. These were incredibly creative entrepreneurs working in some insane circumstances.
Another thought that keeps sticking with me as I read it: these bands didn’t want to be mainstream, they wanted to succeed according to their own definitions of success. Counterintuitively, this ultimately made them more successful. Sonic Youth didn’t need to sell a lot of records to be a success. They just needed to keep making weird Sonic Youth records. “Ultimately what mattered was the quality of what you were doing and how much importance you gave to it, regardless of how widespread it became,” Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth says. Azerrad writes that in this indie label world, “innovators could flourish, enjoy respect and admiration for their work, and actually be applauded and even rewarded for sticking with their vision. Lowering your sights was raising your sights.”
This is wisdom for our digital lives too. Your digital identity could be based on trying to be as big or influential as someone else. But then your metric for success is whether you achieve a similar level of influence. If instead your goal was to simply be the most you that you could be, then you give yourself the chance to constantly succeed and earn the trust and respect of your peers by being yourself. That’s real success.
Happening this week
The Bento Society hosts events for our members and the general public every week. Join us:
The Weekly Bento
Sundays at 12pm EST
Fancy a Coffee or Tea?
Thursdays at 12pm EST
Fridays at 3pm EST
Bento Groups seasons 1, 2, and 3
Thanks to everyone who offered help after my email last week. So many people so generously responded, and others appreciated seeing someone be open about the need for help. For everyone who responded or shared the post with others, thank you! Hopefully I’ll have a new team member or two to introduce soon.
If you yourself are feeling stuck, try asking for help. It works!
Peace and love my friends,
The Bento Society