Digital Coffee (Free) #6 — finding your purpose, the world catching up on AI & talking about anxiety

Today I glanced at @year_progress, one of my favourite Twitter bots, and saw that we’re now 57% through 2019! Wow, where has time gone!? When I think about the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year, I’m still a long way off. As a result, I’ve started to break them down into even smaller tasks — that should at least enable me to start to chip away at them! 

How are your goals going? Maybe try breaking yours up too, or at least revisit the list and refresh them so you can finish 2019 with some clarity, direction and control.

In other news, the reason behind this issue going out a little later than usual 😬 is because I escaped to the countryside this weekend. Getting out of busy London to enjoy some greenery and, more importantly, not hear the sound of sirens throughout the whole night! Then yesterday evening as I sat down to write this, there was a rather distracting fight out the front of the flat... but regardless, sending it out later is better than never. 

Now for the typical please share . I think there are ~100 people signed up. If you think of anyone who would enjoy reading, just ping them the link. Also, feel free to share on LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Thank you so much 🙌

Now onto the content! 🚀

As mentioned last week, I want to try and kick off with some advice each week — a brief snippet that you can take with you into the week ahead. I stumbled upon a rather interesting thread on Quora — “how do I become the best version of myself in a month?” 

The most voted for answer goes onto say

  1. Detox your brain — deactivate social media accounts

  2. Dress nice, smell nice and stand up straight (goal: be comfortable around people)

  3. Get a few more minutes sleep each day (goal: improving your mental health)

  4. Read one book per day (goal: become smarter)

  5. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks (goal: take advantage of your commute)

  6. Reduce your drinking (goal: healthier liver and kidneys, and more money!)

  7. Start jogging (goal: mental and physical strength, as well as some discipline) 

  8. Spend less than what you earn

  9. Start paying your debts and stop working for the banks

  10. Invest in yourself 

  11. Believe in yourself, not on what your boss says 

  12. Don’t confuse being busy with being productive

  13. Learn to budget 

🎧 This week's recommended podcasts

Reid Hoffman's Masters of Scale - The Big Pivot w/ Slack’s Stewart Butterfield

The FT’s Tech Tonic on “Digital printing for the forth industrial revolution

This week’s espresso shots

🙏 Finding your purpose

For the second week in a row I’m featuring a link to Farnham Street. When I stumbled upon this article after reading it quite some time ago, I wanted to be sure to mention it here (mainly as a bookmark to myself, haha). FS highlight a letter written by Hunter S. Thompson when he was 22 years old in which this letter to his friend Hume Logan in response to a request for life advice.

🕹 16 year old makes $3m playing video games

This weekend saw the first Fortnight World Cup. The takeaway? The traditional method of going to school and being a doctor or lawyer isn't the only way to be successful. In today's education system most are left with student loans that are impossible to pay off. Today's world is digital. There are boundless opportunities out there. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Start. Now. Read more on the World Cup here.

👤 ”Facebook Is Dying, Libra Won’t Save It, & Wall Street Is Clueless”

The writer, Lou Kerner, explains his rationale for shifting from an FB bull to an FB bear. Makes for interesting reading, and I should note that it’s not the first analysis that I’ve read this week to come to the same conclusion. The Information published “Facebook Secret Research Warned of ‘Tipping Point’ Threat to Core App

📉 The world is catching up on AI

Last year for the first time ever, the US share of global artificial intelligence startup funding deals fell to less than half the world's total. The US was home to nearly 75% of all deals in 2013 but is fast losing share in the startup market — a key driver of innovation. Why it matters: AI is a major growth force for American companies and "of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States" President Trump said in an executive order signed in February dubbed the "American AI Initiative." However, Trump's order allocated no new federal funding toward AI research and development, only calling on federal agencies to prioritise existing funds toward AI projects.

🌴 Mauritius seems to be the latest tax haven

QZ put out an interesting piece titled “How Sequoia Capital is trying to avoid taxes on over a billion dollars in Indian investments” - Data leaked from law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman’s former Mauritius branch shows the latest tax haven scandal comes from the tiny African nation. Documents show firms like Sequoia Capital, a leading US venture capital firm, used Mauritius to avoid US and local tax collection in countries in Africa and Asia. "The Tax Justice Network, a research and advocacy group, estimates that multinationals shifting profits to tax havens costs the world’s governments more than $500 billion per year."

Coffee & chats (longer form piece)

I wanted to spend a little time to talk about stress & anxiety. I think most people at some point in their life will battle against some form of mental health issue — and in this day and age, it seems that anxiety is becoming a pandemic.

For many, anxiety is an ever-present uninvited guest; in our circle of friends, among family members, and in communities at large. It seems to be rampaging through society like a noncontagious cognitive plague, forming a low-level hum that hides in the corners of our collective minds.

I should note that this is a HUGE topic, and I can only wish to scratch the surface in this newsletter — or at least draw your attention to some studies, as well as some combative measures for how to defend against the onset of anxiety.

Personally, I’ve battled with anxiety on and off for years. I think it’s down to its link with creativity. Just as scientific research has found that anxious people tend to be more intelligent, there seems to also be a link between anxiety and being more creative. Psychotherapist Diana Pitaru explained that anxiety is often felt by creative people even if the symptoms vary from one person to another. It’s not uncommon to learn that creative people like artists, singers, actors, and writers struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety.

Painter Vincent van Gogh suffered throughout his life, as he explained in a letter to his brother: “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head … at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”

The main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination. The dichotomy lies in the fact that the same brain that conjures up inventive paintings, poetry, and music can also get trapped in repetitive thoughts and dreadful worries. According to an expert at Evergray Digital Media, these individuals use their imagination to visualize something before it happens, whether it’s a piece of art or an issue (whether real or made up) that frightens them to cause feelings of great concern and panic. People with both traits also tend to overthink and over-analyze everything, which can make them more anxious and even neurotic at times. Interestingly, dwelling on one’s fears might be the very root of creativity and problem solving.

Why is it increasing throughout the world? 

Medical News Today, has a great post on this — and I’ll attempt to summarise it. But please do go and read the full text here

Much debate surrounds this question. Is anxiety on the rise, or are we simply more inclined to think and speak about it these days? This is a tough question to pick apart, but we must try. The American Psychiatric Association ran a poll on 1,000 US residents in 2017, and they found that nearly two thirds were "extremely or somewhat anxious about health and safety for themselves and their families and more than a third are more anxious overall than last year." Anxiety in the US may be impacting millennials most. They also noted that millennials were the most anxious generation. In 2018, the same poll was repeated. Anxiety was shown to have risen again by another 5%. Millennials were revealed to still be the most anxious generation.

A shift in society - some say that humans in Western societies are becoming more psychologically sensitive because there is less pressure on us to survive now that food and water are so abundant. They believe that our gaze has moved away from survival and shifted inward. They argue that we now focus on extrinsic desires, such as a new car and a big house, rather than intrinsic desires, including the joy of family and friends, and meeting with others in the community.

Living alone - people today are much more likely to live alone than they were 50 years ago. In the US in 1960, under 7 percent of adults lived alone; by 2017, that figure had soared to well over one third of adults. Could this be playing a part? Of course, many people are incredibly happy to live alone — others, however, are not. Loneliness has received a great deal of interest over recent years and has been discussed as a potential risk factor for depression and Alzheimer's, among other conditions.

Social media - some have looked to the impact of social media on mental health. After all, social media has flooded society so thoroughly in such a short space of time, it is highly unlikely to have had no impact at all. Studies looking at the link between social media and anxiety are relatively easy to find. For instance, one that investigated social media use, sleep, and mental health in over 400 Scottish adolescents revealed that those who used social media the most, particularly at night-time, had lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety and depression. Another investigation surveyed more than 1,700 young U.S. adults. The researchers compared the number of social platforms used with levels of anxiety and depression. People who frequented higher numbers of social platforms reported higher levels of depression and anxiety. Another study on 18–22-year-olds came to similar conclusions. Because social media is so ubiquitous, it is difficult to run a study with a control group of adults who have not been introduced to it.

What can we do day-to-day to reduce anxiety?

Greatist has an informative article “15 easy ways to beat anxiety now”. To summarise, I’ll list them below — but check out the article for the supporting text.

  1. Get enough sleep

  2. Smile

  3. De-clutter the brain

  4. Express gratitude

  5. Eat right 

  6. Learn to breathe

  7. Meditate

  8. Create a vision board

  9. Play around

  10. Be silent

  11. Worry (for a limited time)

  12. Plan ahead

  13. Visualise anything positive

  14. Smell something relaxing 

  15. Hang out

That’s it folks, I hope you enjoyed this first newsletter. Again, if you did — please share it with your friends! See you next Sunday (hopefully) 🗓