#79: Going Nomadic (Again) & The Boomer Blockade

😎 Life, Work & What Matters

January 18th, 2020: Greetings from Taipei. I give you this issue under the fog of 13-hour jet lag.

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#1 Continuing The Nomadic Journey

One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read was Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide To Getting Lost, which I devoured in my first month living abroad in 2018.

This quote jumped off the page:

The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration—how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

When I first went nomadic in 2018 I had no idea what to expect but now when I look back, I found all of those things - love, grace, wisdom and inspiration - at many unexpected points along the way.

There’s no way to prove this to anyone that I’ve actually found these things nor is there any way to guarantee that I can find them again. Yet it seems that finding them comes from embracing the uncertainty of life and stepping into the unknown as Solnit again articulates better than me:

That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.

I think a lot about how to design a life where learning and inspiration are core parts of the journey and in this spirit, my wife and I will be leaving Taiwan after our lease is up and going nomadic again for the foreseeable future.

We are both excited and nervous but at the core the journey for us is really about pushing ourselves into the unknown. When people ask us what our plan is or what our goals are, we can give them a story but the truth is, we don’t really know.

I’ll tell you in a few years.

I plan on working during this trip and am going to see if I can orient around a somewhat consistent 4-day workweek. I’ve found over the past couple of years that when I can sit down to think, create and connect, I feel grounded. I’ll be continuing to build Boundless and StrategyU while also helping Angie build out Curious Barbell and continue some of her strength training and coaching work on the road.

Meet us along the way?

One of the most exciting things is having the opportunity to meet people along the way who are either experimenting with similar lives or who are deeply curious about the world. If you’d like to meet up, offer a room or share some tea or coffee with with Angie and me, here is our tentative schedule:

  • Next Six Weeks: Taipei

  • Feb 24th - March 9th: Hoi An & Ho Chi Minh

  • March: Canary Islands, Spain

  • April: Barcelona, Valencia, Seville

  • May: Portugal

  • June: West Coast, Utah, California, Portland (WDS), Seattle

  • July: Connecticut, Boston, NY

  • August: East coast US, Boulder, New Mexico

  • September-December: Central & South America


#2 Is there a boomer blockade?

Image result for gif dikembe block

Over the past couple of years I keep hearing a recurring story.

Millenials and Gen Xers are hitting a wall at work. They have been promoted several times but due to low rates of organic growth and long-tenured senior leaders, they don’t really see a path for future progression or promotion. They start to play the lateral game - jumping around to different jobs and hoping they can find a firm growing fast enough where there might be more opportunity. They may have a good title, but are still doing the same work they were doing 5 to 10 years ago and there doesn’t appear to be anyone retiring or planning on leaving anytime soon.

Many of us were raised with the belief that if you worked hard and put in your time in an organization, you would be rewarded. While many are happy with their income there are still many of those who are unable to achieve the status and responsibility that they want.

This disconnect is likely leading to all sorts of implications for dating, home buying, satisfaction with life and burnout at work.

I’ve started to dig into some of the trends that are emerging, especially with respect to age. Over the past twenty years there seems to have been a dramatic shift towards less opportunity at senior levels and increasing average age in those same jobs.

I’m not completely sure how this all ties together but here is some initial data I’ve come across:

Average age of CEOs up 14 years over the last 14 years.

ceo age v2

Share of 60+ University Presidents increased from 30% to almost 60% in 15 years:

Tenure and tenure track roles shrunk from 45% of Academia in 1975 to about a quarter of jobs today

In law firms, the percent of lawyers who are given a path to equity partner - meaning they own part of the firm, has been steadily shrinking:

Image result for non equity partners increasing law firms

And the # of roles and levels has become more complicated:

It’s hard to find good age data earlier than the 90s, but one interpretation seems to be that the baby boomers got into senior roles in our modern institutions much earlier in their lives and have not given up those roles as early as one might expect.

This is exactly what happened in Congress. They even called it the “great youth revolution”:

Image result for average age of congress over time

I don’t have the data to prove this yet, but it seems that this kind of trend happened across many modern institutions. If you happened to come of age in the 1960s or 70s, you likely found a lot of opportunity as a young person.

As those people have remained in power, the myths of that time have stuck around, causing many in the millennial and Gen X generations to feel stuck or disillusioned.

We can look again to congress to see how this energy is bubbling beneath the surface. In the 2019 congressional elections, the average age of Congress dropped 10 years due to a wave of elected Millennials. Senior leaders in companies may have a much stronger hold on their jobs than in congress, but it could be a sign that there are many people ready to step up and lead.

Will we see another “youth revolution” in the corporate world and across other major institutions?


#3 Independent Research (h/t Jim Rutt)

Jim passed along a link to the Ronin Institute, which is an interesting group trying to reinvent research outside of Academia.

The Ronin Institute is creating a new model for scholarly research that recognizes that the world outside of traditional academia is filled with smart, educated, passionate people who have a lot to offer to the world of scholarship. We aim to transform the way that scholarly research is coordinated and funded. Ultimately, we want anyone who is interested in pursuing high-quality scholarly research to be able to do so. Moreover, we want these people to be able to pursue their research in a way that is consistent with all of their life’s priorities.

I expect to see to see an explosion of funding vehicles for all types of work emerge over the next decade outside of traditional institutions.


#4 Decade in Work (h/t Kaila Lim)

The Morning Brew had a decade in review on work worth checking out


#5 A Quote (h/t Travis Mann)

From Henry Miller:

If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power.

If you are young in years but already weary in spirit, already on the way to becoming an automaton, it may do you good to say to your boss — under your breath, of course — “Fuck you, Jack! You don’t own me!” … If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.


That’s all for this week. Have a good weekend!

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