What can change in a year? (The Bento Society #36)

Hi there and welcome to the Bento Society. I’m Yancey Strickler.

A quick note: this will be the last message sent through this Substack account. Next week we’ll resume our conversation with a new channel and iteration of the Bento Society. Stay tuned!

What can change in a year?

The smart answer is to say not that much. Bill Gates famously said most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. That feels right. The journey from age 34 to 35 feels so slight it hardly feels worth counting, yet we leave our thirties a different person than we enter them.

But when you get into meaningful time in the Greek sense of the phrase, this changes. When things are important time slows down, becomes more expansive. Kids are a great example. When you have kids time changes. Ours is turning five soon, and each and every morning I can look at his face and see how he matured from just a single night’s rest. With kids, each moment is a universe.

And then there are years like last one. The world was remade into something our old selves would barely recognize in less than a year. Maybe last year was an aberration or maybe it’s our new normal. In the masterful sci-fi book Hyperion, the period before humanity became networked is referred to as “slowtime.” That phrase feels increasingly accurate to describe the world we have left behind.

In our last gathering of 2020 we made Yearly Bentos for 2021. To prepare for that presentation, I ended up doing the Yearly Bento exercise twice. The first time my bento was simple: grow the Bento Society. Most things added up to that.

While leading the Yearly Bento session I did this a second time. That time my bento changed. After reflecting on what happened last year, it became clear that 2020’s most meaningful moments and best outcomes were a result of a real connection I’d experienced with another person. Then I realized: if I made that my focus in 2021, my other goals — like growing the Bento Society — could naturally result.

This bento still reflects the same overarching goal as the first one. The Bento Society is still my focus. But this tells me not just my goal, but how to achieve it in a way that’s most coherent with who I am. It tells me what to pursue and how to best succeed in fulfilling it. 

Take out your 2021 bento and look at it again. It tells you your priorities. Does it say anything about how to achieve them? Does it tell you what mindset will best serve you? What kind of people you need around you? As the new year begins, ask yourself not just what you want, but how you’re meant to be.

What will happen to the Bento Society in 2021?

In 2020 the Bento Society grew from an email list of 0 to 2,000. It hosted more than 100 events for thousands of people. It launched experiments like Bento Groups and the Weekly Bento that became rituals for strangers around the world. And through essays, experiments, and research, it pushed at the boundaries of how we define value and self-interest.

In 2021 this work will continue and grow. The Bento Society will soon launch a paid membership model. New versions of the Bento Groups experience will launch in the coming weeks. The Bento Society will put out several new publications diving into the worlds of data, new concepts of self, and practical applications of the bento this year. And we’ll financially and materially support organizations that are in pursuit of missions like ours.

This mission will kick off in a new way next week. Thanks for being part of the journey until now. I’m excited to soon share what comes next.

The Weekly Bento

But first! The Weekly Bento returns this Sunday, hosted by Bento Society member Anne Muhlethaler. Anne is a skilled teacher and wise human in Geneva, Switzerland. Join her and the Bento community by RSVPing here:

The Weekly Bento
Sunday Jan 10, 2021
12pm EST

Peace and love my friends,

Yancey Strickler
The Bento Society